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The Anglo-German 

A Social History 



The Anglo-German 

A Social History 

Volume 2 

Dan M. Worrall 

Concertina Press, Fulshear, Texas 

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The Anglo-German Concertina: A Social History, Volume 2 
by Dan M. Worrall 

Published in 2009 by Concertina Press, Fulshear, Texas USA; 
Third Edition, 2010 

© 2009 by Dan M. Worrall 
ISBN 978-0-9825996-1-7 
LCCN 2009913576 

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or 
transmitted, in any form or by any means, without the prior permission in writing from the 
author, except by a reviewer, who may quote brief passages in a review, or as expressly 
permitted by law. 

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Volume 1 

Introduction and Summary 

Chapter 1. Invention, Production, and Marketing of German System Concertinas 
Chapter 2. German and Anglo-German Concertinas in England 

Chapter 3. The Concertina in Ireland 
Chapter 4. The Concertina at Sea 

Volume 2 

Chapter 5. The Concertina and the Boers of South Africa 

Introduction and Background: The concertina in Africa - A brief history colonial-era South 
Africa and the Boers - A note on colonial-era racial terminology 

The Concertina in the Cape Colony and the Boer Republics: Cape Town — In the Boer 
Republics - Social dancing - A fascination with the concertina - The concertina in the 
Second Boer War - Entering the modem age 

Traditional Boer Dance Music and Musicians: The dances - Early-twentieth-century Boer 
concertina players and recordings - Late-twentieth-century decline and resurgence - Modem 

The Concertinas of Boer Music 

Style and Technique; Octave playing — The beginnings of chromatic playing 
A Note on the Concertina in British South African Society 
Resources: Concertina organizations - South African concertina builders 

Chapter 6. The Concertina in Africa 

Introduction and Background: A mixture of cultures - A note on colonial-era racial terminology 
The Concertina and Cape Creole People 

The Concertina and African Groups in the Cape Region: The Khoi - TheXhosa 

The Concertina in Zulu and Basotho Culture: Early appearances in the Zulu homeland - 
Concertina transport — Basotho concertina playing 

Modem Forms of South African Concertina Use: Gumboot dancing - Maskanda - Mbaqanga 
and township frve - The "squashbox" instrument of South Africa - Playing in the squashbox 

The Concertina in West Africa: Early appearances — Ghana's highlife and palm wine music 

The Concertina in Central and East Africa: Native reactions upon first hearing the concertina — 
Use in the Congo and Kenya — Concertinas in Madagascar's musical culture 

Resources: Publications - Recordings 


Chapter 7. The Concertina in AustraUa 75 

Introduction and Background: 

Arrival and Marketing of the Concertina 

The Concertina in Rural Australian Life: Immigrants and settlers - Into the bush, by campfire 
lig^t - Social dancing and other bush customs — The concertina and the miners — Bushrangers! 
-Aborigines, South Sea Islanders, and the concertina 

The Concertina in Cities and Large Towns: Minstrel shows -Music halls, concerts, and other 

entertainment — Urban social dancing — Street musicians — Petty crimes and the urban 
concertina — The Salvation Army in Australia — Holidays and excursions — The concertina in 
the military 

Decline and Revival: The heyday ends - The Australian folk revival - Last of their kind: 
surviving players of the concertina's heyday The concertina in Australia today 

Resources : Australian music and dance societies and organizations - Recordings - Information 
and tutors - Builders and repairers 


Chapter 8. The Concertina in New Zealand 147 

Introduction and Background 
Arrival of the Concertina 

The Concertina in New Zealand Life: Concerts and minstrels — Living in a man's world: 
timbering, mining, whaling, and soldiering -The Salvation Army in New Zealand — The Maori 
and the concertina - Social dancing amongst the settlers 

A Last Flourish, then Silence: Decline and disappearance — The folk revival in New Zealand 



Chapter 9. The Concertina in North America 177 


Arrival and Early Distribution: Anglo vs. English Concertinas: Aliisic on the Social Ladder 
An Instrument with Mass Appeal: Loved and despised in public places — Social dancing— Use 

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in the Civil War — The concertina on the Mormon wagon trains - Stories of the wild west, some 
true —In the mining camps — The minstrels and the concertina — Vaudeville and music hall — 
Humor — Prominent players of the concertina's heyday 

Concertina Use by Various Ethnic, Immigrant, and Social Groups; Concertinas and African- 
American musicians —Immigrants and the concertina - The concertina and native North 
Americans —Anglo use in the Salvation Army 

The Early Twentieth Century: Decline and Disappearance: Decline of the concertina - The 
Hollywood Anglo, and arrival of clowns and girdles 

The Anglo in ttie North American Concertina Revival: Current performers and prominent 
players — Literary renaissance 

Resources: Organizations and workshops — Builders and repairers — American traditional 
music for Anglo-German concertina 


Chapter 10. Transcriptions: Playing Styles and Techniques from Early 

Players 229 

Introduction: A break with the past - Playing for house dances: octaves — Playing in octaves: 
the basics — Stylistic differences among octave players —Irish along-the-row players — Bridging 
the gaps, into the future 

Transcriptions of Early Recorded Players: 

England 238 

William Kimber: Bacca Pipes (morris dance) 

William Kimber: Double Lead Through (country dance) 

Scan Tester: Scan Tester 's Schottische (schottische) 

Scan Tester: Roamin ' in the Gloamin ' (music hall song) 

Fred Kikoy: Blaze Away (march) 

EUis Marshall CroMA/om'i (morris dance) 

Ireland 244 

Margaret "Baby" Crehan Sweet Biddy Daly (jig) 

Bernard O'Sullivan I Have a Bonnet Trimmed with Blue (polka) 

William Mullaly The Tory Island Reel 

John Kelly: The Crooked Road to Dublin (reel) 

Michael Doyle: The Mount Phoebus Hunt (hornpipe) 

Elizabeth Grotty: The Wind That Shakes the Barley (reel) 

Paclcie Russell: The Heathery Breeze (reel) 

Paddy Murphy The Dawn (reel) 

South Africa 252 

Hans Bodenstein: Settees (Boer schottische) 

Chris Chomse Noodshulp Polka 

Faan Harris: Soutpansberg Settees (Boer schottische) 

Faan Harris: Wals van Taut Sannie (Boer waltz) 

Jonas Mate: Mammolikoane (Sotho song) 

John Bambota: U Tugela (Zulu walking song) 


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Fred Holland 
Clem O'Neal 
Dooley Chapman: 
Dooley Chapman: 
Con Klippel: 
Jim Harrison: 
Jim Harrison 
Charlie Ordish 

The Mudgee Schottisch (schottische) 
Varsovicma (varsovienne) 
Lancers Tune (set dance) 
Old Dan Tucker (minstrel tune) 
Manchester Galop (galop) 
Princes Polka (polka) 
Killaloo (comic Irish song) 
Kelvin Grove (polka) 

Index to both volumes 



"Winter Amusements, Opunake C. M. Troupe," photographed at the military garrison at Opunake 
Redoubt, New Zealand , ca. 1875. The initials "CM." probably refers to the American group the 
Christy Minstrels, the name of which had by then become a generic term for "minstrel troupe." 
Photograph by Sharp and Sons, courtesy the Alexander Turnbull Library of the 
National Library of New Zealand. 


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Chapter 5. The Concertina and the Boers of South Africa 

Every Boer believes himself to be a born musician . . . and every Boer homestead possesses some 
musical instrument, as a rule a concertina . . . The concertina is in use every day, and at all hours of the 
day. When the Boer goes away on a transport Journey he takes his concertina with him. From every 
waggon trekking slowly along the dusty road you will hear strains of this instrument breaking out on the 
quiet air, and if you give a backward glance, you will see the boss stretched out on his mattress in the 
tent of the waggon, pipe in mouth, grinding out some world forgotten tune. . . . When the night closes in, 
the transport rider will play himself to sleep. On the farm, too, the concertina is never idle, for the boys 
take it with them, as they go out in the early morning to watch the cattle feed, and again in the evening, 
when they count the stock as they are driven in. 

— Hampshire Telegraph and Naval Chronicle (Portsmouth, England), 1900. 

Introduction and Background 
The concertina arrives in Africa 

The German concertina came to Africa at 
the height of the era of European colonization of 
that continent. Colonization had begun in the 
seventeenth century, notably by the Portuguese, 
Dutch, and French, but these were mostly coastal 
towns and forts. After a quiet period during the 
Napoleonic wars, European interest in this 
continent turned into a "scramble for Africa" 
during the middle-to-late nineteenth century, with 
each nation trying to best the other in a mad and 
often brutal dash for African colonies. 
Commercial ships feeding this empire- building 
brought, amongst many other commodities, 
German concertinas and other cheap musical 
instruments (accordions, tin whistles, and the 
Uke) to port towns. In England, Ireland, 
Australasia and North America, the early 1850s 
marked the first arrival of large numbers of 
German concertinas, and that seems to have been 
the case here as well. By the 1860s there are 
reports of concertinas in South Africa, Nigeria, 
and Benin, and by the early 1870s, in Angola and 
the Cape Verde Islands as well. Many of the very 
earUest observations of concertina use in Africa 
involve both British explorers and Dutch settlers 

in South Africa, but indigenous Africans began to 
play the instrument at the same time. That most 
of these early observations come from coastal 
towns indicates that the concertina's earliest use 
was concentrated in places where commercial 
ships could deliver the instalment. A German 
explorer remarked of Angola at the time of his 
visit there (1872-1876) that: 

The concertina, flute and tin penny-whistle have 
become naturalized in the colony thanks to 
merchants and sailors. The military bands made 
up of Negroes and mulattos, and usually led by a 

white, play the pieces popular in Europe, and 
many a Negro has become a virtuoso on his 
instrument . . . everywhere in Angola, even in the 
interior, men, women, and children can 
immediately and correctly whistle and sing the 
melodies played by the military bands. 

Chapter 6 includes descriptions of the many 
indigenous African cultural groups whose 
members played the concertina. Their concertina 
traditions, which include West African "High 
Life," Zulu and Sotho "squashbox" music in 
South Africa, and Malagasy dance music in East 
Africa, have concertina-playing roots as old and 
deep as those in England, Ireland, New Zealand, 
and AustraUa. British explorers and missionaries 

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The Anglo-German Concertina 

brought the concertina far inland to the Congo, 
Zimbabwe, and elsewhere, but in none of these 
central African regions did concertina playing 
"naturalize" with indigenous peoples, perhaps 
because of the lack of ready access to merchants 
who sold these instruments. The German 
concertina was never common with indigenous 
peoples of North Africa, regardless of European 
colonization and ready access to merchants and 
shipping routes, because the Arabic musical scale 
with its quarter tone intervals is simply not 
playable on a concertina, especially not on a 
simple, diatonic German concertina. 

The most avid users of the German and 
Anglo-German concertina in Africa today, 
however, are the modem descendants of the 
Dutch settlers of South Africa, in particular the 
descendants of those Voortrekker (pioneer) 
people who made the Great Trek into the interior 
to establish the formerly independent Republics 
of the Natal, Transvaal, and the Orange Free 
State, all of which have been incorporated into 
the modern Union of South Africa. These are the 
Boer people {Boer is the Dutch word for farmer), 
and this chapter focuses on their use of the 
concertina. In these frontier regions, Boers 
picked up concertina playing very early on and 
combined it with their passion for social dancing. 
Late-nineteenth-century British and American 
visitors to South Africa remarked as much or 
more in their journals about the incessant 
concertina playing by Boer men and the length of 
Boer social dances as they did about any of the 
other Boer cultural practices they observed. Boer 
styles and techniques on the concertina are highly 
refined over many generations of playing, and 
until fairly recently the Anglo-German 
concertina's home there was primarily in playing 
for dances. 

The late-nineteenth-century dances of Boer 
South Africa include the same continental 
European-derived, ballroom style polkas, 
waltzes, mazurkas, and schottisches that were 
found at that time in England, Ireland, AustraUa, 
and New Zealand. The ubiquitous mid-twentieth- 
century "gap" in usage of the Anglo-German 
concertina seen elsewhere in the world was not 
evident in Boer South Africa, as its use has 

continued in an unbroken chain to the present 
day. The concertina has attained the status of a 
beloved cultural icon with Boer people, and ttiere 
are more concertina players and builders per 
capita there than anywhere else in the world. 

A brief history of colonial-era South Africa 
and the Boers 

The first European settlement in South 
Africa was at Cape Town (Figure 1), where the 
Dutch founded a supply station for the Dutch 
East India Company (VOC) at the Cape of Good 
Hope in 1652. They brought in large numbers of 
slaves from Madagascar, India, and Indonesia 
(this latter group are usually called the Cape 
Malays) to work for the VOC. The pastoral, 
indigenous Khoi people of the Cape region 
(called "Hottentots" during the colonial period) 
were largely displaced by VOC farms, and they 
lived and worked alongside other ethnic groups 
in the Cape Colony. After the Dutch East India 
Company went bankrupt, the British armexed the 
colony in 1806. Slavery was outlawed in aU 
British colonies after 1833. 

Dissatisfied with both British rule and the 
constant border wars with the indigenous African 
groups to the east, a large group of about twelve 
thousand Dutch famers and cattlemen (known by 
the Dutch word Boer, or farmer) left the Cape 
Colony in 1835, and plunged farther north and 
east into Africa, beyond the reach of the British 
Crown. These Voortrekkers (pioneers) separated 
from the Cape Dutch, who remained. This 
adventurous pioneer group, and those who 
undertook a series of subsequent treks, formed 
independent states in the Natal, the Transvaal, 
and the Orange Free State (Figure 1 shows the 
political boundaries of this region as it existed in 
1892). The journey to Natal brought about 
conflict with indigenous Zulu tribes there, from 
which the Boers emerged as victors. The British 
annexed Natal in 1843, but ratified treaties 
recognizing the independence and Boer control 
of the Transvaal and the Orange Free State in 
1852 and 1854, respectively. 

The discovery of diamonds at Kimberley in 
the late 1860s and early 1870s, along the western 

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The Concertina and the Boers 



_o le 

Angra JVji^ho^ 

Hay .-."VIA 


Cape Tc 

Cap« of Good 


Figure 1 . A map of southern Africa in 1 890, showing the location of the Cape Colony as well as the locations of the 
former Boer Republics of the Transvaal, the Orange Free State, and Natal. From the American Encyclopedia Britannica 
of 1892. 

edge of the Orange Free State, caused further 
conflicts between the Boers and the British. 
Miners from Britain and elsewhere began to 
flood the region, and the British annexed the 
Kimberley mines. After a failed attempt in 1875 
to form a federation of British and Boer interests 
in the region, the British unilaterally annexed the 
entire Transvaal in 1877. Boer objections were 
tempered by the financial difficulties suffered by 
their young Transvaal republic, as well as by 
internal land disputes with Zulu tribes. After the 
British took over sovereignty of the Transvaal, a 
British ultimatum to Zulu leaders to disband their 
armies led to the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879. After 
the British defeated the Zulus, the Boers in the 
Transvaal revolted against the British in the First 
Boer War of 1880-1881. The Boers emerged 
victorious in several successive engagements, 
leading to a truce and peace treaty with the 
British in 1881; the Boers were required only to 
recognize the nominal rule of the Queen, while 
they regained all practical self-governance in the 

Discovery of gold near Pretoria in 1886 
caused another massive upheaval. The Transvaal 
became a rich republic, but at the same time was 
flooded with more British and other immigrants 
who were attracted by the gold. Yet again the 
British insisted upon British control of the 
Transvaal and Orange Free State, leading to the 
Second Boer War of 1899-1901. A first stage of 
Boer pre-emptive strikes, involving sieges at the 
towns of Ladysmith, Mafeking, and Kimberley 
(with its diamond mines), was initially 
successful, but with increased troop levels the 
British relieved the sieges in 1900, and captured 
Pretoria and the gold mining region. The 
desperate Boers followed with a guerilla 
campaign in rural areas, to which the British 
army responded with destruction of Boer farms 
and confinement of Boer civilians in infamous 
concentration camps, where over twenty-six 
thousand Boer women and children died, as did 
an additional fourteen thousand to twenty 
thousand indigenous Africans (these were 
servants who had lived on Boer farms).' The 

The Anglo-German Concertina 

Second Boer War, ultimately won by the British, 
was to be the last and most expensive of Britain's 
imperial wars. 

The Union of South Africa was formed in 
1910 as a dominion of Britain, and was 
comprised of the combined former Cape Colony, 
Natal, Transvaal, and Orange Free State. South 
Africa became independent in 1931. After World 
War II, efforts by its government to continue 
colonial-style minority white control in the face 
of a global push toward democracy led to the 
imposition of a policy of racial segregation 
known as apartheid, an effort that was to fail. The 
first multi-racial elections were held in 1994.^ 

It was into this region of late-nineteenth- 
century tumult and instability that the little 
German concertina was introduced in the 1850s. 
Prosperity from colonial-era trade as well as 
mining operations meant that large numbers of 
free-reed musical instruments were imported 
both from Germany and England. The German 
concertina, or for those who could afford it, the 
Anglo-German concertina, was subsequently 
adopted by people in almost all of the ethnic 
groups involved in these political dramas, as the 
"sightings" below attest. These groups include 
the Cape Dutch, the Boers, the British, the "Cape 
Coloured" (mixed-race descendants of the 
formerly enslaved Madagascar, Indian, and 
Indonesian inunigrants, the indigenous Khoi, and 
the Europeans), the Xhosa, the Sotho, and the 
Zulus. The concertina's use among the various 
indigenous African groups and the "Cape 
Coloured" is discussed in Chapter 6. 

A note on colonial-era racial terminology 

A few of the firsthand nineteenth-century 
accounts quoted below and in the following 
Chapter 6 — most of which were written by 
British and Dutch observers during the colonial 
era — make use of terms which are now 
considered racist and offensive to one degree or 
another. That was not necessarily the intent of the 
writers of those period extracts (notwithstanding 
the overall environment of European subjugation 
of African people during the colonial era), nor is 
it so of this writer. The usual nineteenth-century 

colonial Dutch and British descriptive term for an 
indigenous black African was "Kaffir." Now 
considered highly pejorative, in most of the 
nineteenth century it was a neutral term for black 
African people, and was employed across the 
board by whites, including not only soldiers and 
administrators but missionaries and scholars. It 
was the first of a series of generic terms used by 
Europeans for black Africans, and was later 
displaced in turn by "native" and then by "Bantu" 
before the simple term "African" gained general 
acceptance among both black and white Africans 
in the twentieth century. "Kaffir" gained its 
modern, ugly connotation during the exploitation 
of African miners in South Africa at the close of 
the nineteenth century."* The ancient Khoi people 
of the Cape region — UnguisticaUy and racially 
distinct from peoples of Bantu origin — were 
called "Hottentots" by early Dutch settlers, and 
the descriptive term was used throughout the 
nineteenth century, usually without malice. The 
term was derived from sounds made in the 
Khoisan language; in modern Africa it is now 
considered an offensive term. In the Cape Town 
area, the term "Cape Coloured" is still used in 
post-Apartheid South Africa for the diverse 
mixed-race culture of that city and its environs, 
and is considered acceptable usage in modem 
South Africa. The widespread colonial term 
"Cape boy" is of course pejorative today. The 
custom of calling grown Africans "boys" and 
"girls" was a widespread and dehumanizing 
practice that is thaiikfully gone. These terms have 
been left in the original historical accounts. 


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The Concertina and the Boers 

The Concertina in the Cape Colony and 
the Boer Republics 

Cape Town 

The accordion arrived in South Africa by the 
1830s, as shown in an advertisement in De Zuid 
Afrikaan of July 6, 1837. Historian Gustav 
Schoeman Preller notes that accordions were 
present on the Great Trek. Naturalist Thomas 
Baines mentions the accordion several times in 
his book, African Journey, dealing with visits in 
1849 and 1850, but mentions no concertinas.^ 
The earliest documented "sighting" yet found of 
the concertina in Cape Town is from 1862, where 
the instrument was already in common use for 
dances. The English colonial Lady Duff Gordon 
wrote letters about her life in Cape Town during 
the years from 1862 to 1864: 

Jan. 3d. (1862). We have had tremendous 
festivities here — a ball on New Year 's eve, and 
another on the first of January. . . . The difficulty 

of music for the ball was solved by the arrival of 
two Malay bricklayers to build a new parsonage, 
and I heard with my own ears the proof of what I 
had been told as to their extraordinary musical 
gifts. When I went into the ball, a Dutchman was 
screeching a concertina hideously. Presently in 
walked a yellow Malay, with a blue cotton 
handkerchief on his head, and a half-bred of 
Negro blood . . . with a red handkerchief and 
holding a rough tambourine. The handsome 
yellow man took the concertina which seemed so 
discordant, and the touch of his dainty fingers 
transformed it to harmony. He played dances 
with a precision and feeling quite unequalled, 
except by Strauss 's band, and a variety which 
seemed endless. I asked him if he could read 
music, at which he laughed heartily, and said, 
music came into the ears, not the eyes. He had 
picked it all up from the bands in Cape Town, or 

It was a strange sight — the picturesque group, 

and the contrast between the quiet manners of the 
true Malay and the grotesque fun of the half- 
Negro. The latter made his tambourine do duty 

as a drum, rattled the bits of brass so as to 
produce an indescribable effect, nodded and 
grinned in wild excitement, and drank beer while 
his comrade took water. The dancing was 
interesting enough. The Dutchmen danced badly, 
and said not a word, but plodded on so as to get 
all the dancing they could for their money. I went 
to bed at half-past eleven, but the ball went on till 

This finely detailed description has much to 

tell us about mid-nineteenth century Cape Town. 
First, Lady Gordon's evident dislike of the Dutch 
speaks of the continuing discord between the 
British and the Dutch; the Great Trek had 
occurred almost two decades earlier, setting up 
nearly a century of friction between those two 
groups. Beyond politics, we learn that both the 
Cape Dutch and the Cape Malays had already 
picked up concertina playing by 1 862, indicating 
that the German concertina — for it is certainly 
that instrument that working Malay servants 
would have played — had most likely arrived the 
previous decade. That a Cape Malay and a "half- 
bred" black African were playing concertina 
music shows that the playing of concertinas was 
not restricted to European groups even at the very 
beginning of the instrument's introduction. And 
finally, the attribution of the musical training of 
the musicians to "the bands in Cape Town" refers 
to the colony's military bands who typically 
introduced the latest dances from Europe. 
African and European people alike were 
fascinated with the dance music introduced by 
these bands, and various ethnic groups sought to 
reproduce those sounds on whatever instruments 
were available. The cheap German concertina 
was often just the thing, and from its earliest 
introduction seems to have jumped into the hands 
of working-class laborers from various racial and 
cultural groups. 

In the mid-to-late nineteenth century, 
American minstrel groups were also popular in 
South Africa; songs and dance tunes from both 
the minstrel shows and the American Civil War 
were commonly performed. Jan Bouws, in his 
history of music in South Africa,^ recounts that 
blackface minstrel troupes like the Christy 

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The Anglo-German Concertina 

Minstrels and the Ethiopian Serenaders toured 
both Cape Town and many interior villages, and 
it is from this source that the banjo made it to 
South Africa. Homegrown minstrel groups 
followed, with strange titles like the Roman 
Catholic Christies and the Afrikander Musicale. 
Concertinas were involved in the playing of 
minstrel music in South Africa, as they were in 
England at that time. For example, in 1874 there 
was a concertina competition in Cape Town at a 
boarding house run by the Freemasons, and the 
prize was a gold watch. The contestants played 
their concertinas to the accompaniment of banjos 
and bones, the key instruments of the minstrel 

In the Boer Republics 

The earliest documented appearance of the 
concertina that is yet known from the outlying 
Boer RepubUcs dates from 1861. In 
Bloemfontein, in the former Orange Free State, 
this advertisement appeared on the thirtieth of 
December of that year: 


Will be given by P and C Riegelruth 

Professors of the Accordion and Concertina^ 

The music and dandng at the event was 

apparently somewhat edgy for its day, as the 
"high kicking" that accompanied the dancing was 
considered shocking by the residents of 

One other record exists of the concertina's 
early use in the 1860s. In a lengthy address to the 
American Geographical Society, a woman 
identified only as "Miss Russell," a native of 
South Africa who had grown up in that region, 
gave a fascinating account of Boer customs in the 
Natal province in the mid-nineteenth century. 
Although the address was given in 1876, she 
spoke of her childhood in Natal in the 1860s. She 
mentioned the concertina twice — once in 
describing a campfire scene on a trek, and then in 
describing a rural house dance: 

Until the last few years, it was customary for 
each Boer family annually to pack up such goods 
and chattel as were necessary to the trek, and 
with their wool, skin, butter and other produce to 
make a journey to Natal, their nearest market. I 
may mention here that the Boer 's method of 
traveling is by wagon and ox-team, which no 
Boer is without; and he always takes his wife and 
children with him . . . it means a six week's picnic 
campaign; we must lay in a store of provisions 
and such articles of household comfort as are 
necessary to life anywhere, and resign ourselves 
to camping life, or as we term it, avelat life. To 
some natures this quiet, dreamy existence is full 
of charm; it is healthy and indolent . . . Round the 
campfire of an evening the scene is often most 
inspiriting; busy hands preparing supper; merry 
jesting growing merrier as the fragrant odor 
reminds the hungry travelers that the meal is 
ready; the loud talking of the natives, and the sad 
music of the concertina, adds to a picture a wild 
and weird charm which would draw forth the 
artist 's fancy. . . . 

Though the Boers have simple habits and few 
wants, you must not imagine them to be poor. 
Many of them are very rich, possessing countless 
herds of cattle and flocks of sheep, and there are 
many of them whose wool brings them in a very 
good income. In their homes the Boers are very 
hospitable, never refusing to entertain a stranger. 
. . . They are very fond of music and dancing, and 
many of them play with much taste on the violin 
and concertina. This they acquire by ear; their 
dancing is chiefly confined to reels, and at New 
Year, when they assemble in great numbers at 
different houses, they keep up this dancing for 
two or three consecutive days, not even resting at 

A trek camping scene very similar to that 
described by Miss Russell was drawn by 
illustrator Heinrch Egersdorfer in the late 
nineteenth century (Figure 2), and shows a 
young Boer playing a concertina while a black 
servant dances with a small child. A late- 
nineteenth- century painting by Frank Dadd, an 
illustrator for the London Illustrated News who 


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The Anglo-German Concertina 

worked in the Transvaal at this time, shows a 
black shepherd walking alongside Boer trekkers 
(Figure 3); both the Boers and the indigenous 
African peoples were playing the concertina 
during that era (see Chapter 6). 

There is little else written about the 
instrument's use in the 1860s — perhaps it was 
just getting established then — but by the early 
1870s it was well established throughout the 
Orange Free State, the Transvaal, and the Natal 
province, as the following documents show. A 
British prospector, visiting the village of 
Hopetown (south of Kimberley) in about 1872, 
went to a ball where the band consisted of no less 
than five concertinas, evidence of the great 
popularity of the instrument by the early 1870s: 

In the evening was a public ball, which I attended 
with Mr. Lilienfeld. Quite a score of ladies were 
present . . . the beauty of one sex, and the 
courtesy of the other, were most creditable to 
Hopetown. We danced in a room twenty feet by 
fifteen, and had supper in a closet, whilst beer 
and other liquids were retailed in a corner 
cupboard. Our band consisted of five 
concertinas, all of a row; the musicians had been 
kept up all the day in close confinement, our 
stewards reUeving one another in guarding them. 
The excitement promised would infallibly have 
driven them to drink if free 

Sir George Pomeroy-Colley, later to die in 
the First Boer War, travelled in the Transvaal in 
1875, officially working on postal and 
telegraphic issues, but unofficially observing 
Boer political and military affairs. He visited a 
Boer kommando military group that year, and 
noticed an interesting character among all the 
Boer military chiefs: 

[A ] German captain, an ex-officer . . . of the 
Prussian Guard . . . had come out to organize the 
artillery for them; a curious character, with a 
wonderful capacity for drink, who . . . was 
especially proud of his band, consisting of two 
fiddles, a concertina, and a guitar — an 
unfortunate family of wandering half-breed 
musicians, who were playing their way through 

the Transvaal, when by happy inspiration they 
were "commandeered" and sent off with the 
expedition. In the evening the captain gave us a 
small entertainment in his tent — whist and 
music }^ 

Here was a mixed-race band, with concertina, 
playing for the Boer army, introducing the latest 
tunes from the Cape into Boer culture in the 
Transvaal. In 1879, prominent Scottish singer 
David Kennedy travelled through South Africa, 
and said this of a farmhouse in the southern 
Orange Free State village of PhillippoUs (Figure 

Figure 4. A Boer farm at Phillippolis, Transvaal, where 
singer David Kennedy heard a Boer concertina player in 
1879. From Marjory Kennedy, 1887, David Kennedy, the 
Scottish Singer; Reminiscences of his Life and Work.. 

On our journey of thirty-four miles to 
PhiUippohs, we breakfasted at a farm kept by an 
intelligent Dutch woman. The house was neat, 
but primitive; the chairs were "cane-bottomed" 
with strips of raw hide. We amused the children 
by a song or two, and the big strapping son, 
coming in from the stable, rewarded us with a 
tune on the concertina. 

The Boers not only played dance music on 
the German concertina, but sang hymns with it as 
well, as the following account of ca. 1879 shows. 
Journeying through central South Africa in the 
years just before the First Boer War of 1880-81, 
an Englishman wrote a sympathetic account of 
his travels through the Boer Republics, which 
were at that time being overrun with British 


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The Concertina and the Boers 

immigrants following the Kimberley diamond 


The afternoon of the second day [of an eighty- 
mile trek from Bloemfontein to Fauresmith] 
brought us with one horse dead lame to a Boer 
house, the Baas [boss] of which, through his 
better half kindly proferred his hospitality, which 
was duly accepted. He showed me a strong- 
looking, rather fresh horse, price £21; said I 
could leave my lame one till I wanted him. I 
demurred, said I would reflect till morning, and 
sang him the chorus of "The Little Wee Dog" in 
a very free Cape Dutch translation. Its 
marvellous effect, however, was electrical, and 
the negotiation in horse-flesh resulted in my 
taking his gallant bay at a reduction of £6 next 

A very simple and, in most cases, well-meaning 
and hospitable people, the A frican Dutch have 
had many of these originally good qualities 
spoiled by passing travellers by the abuses to 
which they have been subjected, the more so 
since the diamond discovery attracted to South 
African regions a fair amount of the British 
population who, as a representative class, can 
scarcely be said by their bearing and manners to 
shed lustre upon the land of their birth, or 
pleasure on that of their adoption. These natural 
prejudices did not interfere with Mynheer 
Liebenberg and his Vrouw, who, understanding 
English, was the medium of explaining some of 
my efforts to excite her Baas into risibility. It was 
not a difficult matter; very little humour set him 
well off. We sang songs alternately — that is, I 
sang songs; his musical repertoire was confined 
to Dutch hymns, which he warbled with the lungs 
of a Stentor, and with which he succeeded in 
keeping his "end up" in the programme, a 
German concertina affording a magnificent 

In 1877, the Transvaal was annexed by the 
British, partly through the diplomatic efforts of 
Sir Theophilus Shepstone, who later admin- 
istrated the Transvaal in Pretoria. The bloodless 
coup that brought about annexation was not 

completely one-sided, as the Boers themselves 
were reportedly discontented with their own 
government. One way Shepstone sought to win 
Boer hearts and minds in advance of the 
annexation involved the concertina: 

The Boers were utterly disgusted with their 

President, their Volksraad, and, to some extent, 
with themselves. A cloud of apathy seemed to 
have settled on them; a feeling that nothing 
mattered as long as things were changed. As we 
now know, that was on the surface only, but it 
deceived even people who should have been able 
to feel "the pulse of the nation. " Still, Sir 
Theophilus walked with wary steps. His quarters 
in Pretoria became a salon, where all who had 
grievance or complaint against the Government 
were cordially welcomed; and Mr. "Slypsteen" 
[whetstone] , as the Boers called him, did not 
disdain to visit them at their homes, and in their 
tents at Nachtmaal time. Speaking the Taal to 
perfection, courteous, plausible, he won every 
heart; moreover he distributed largesse with a 
liberal, if unobtrusive, hand. Many a Boer 
youngster was made happy by the present of a 
concertina, and hardly a little girl could be 
found in Pretoria who did not wear a locket or 
bracelet, the gift of the "dear old man. "^'^ 

Back in London, some hyperactive 
government accountants picked apart 
Shepstone' s expense accounts after he retired in 

The account is of a most unsatisfactory 
character, vouchers and details are produced for 
about one-third only of the payments, and the 
small portion that is capable of thorough 
examination contains evidence that the 
unvouched residue includes several duplicate 
charges. One item, described as forage, 
contained a concertina, a set of vases, a great 
coat, and some muslin}^ 

The concertina was clearly a popular 
instrument among young Boers at this time. 
Louis Botha (1862-1919) was a member of the 
aforementioned Transvaal Volksraad, a leader of 
Transvaal forces in the First Boer War, and 

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The Anglo-German Concertina 

ultimately became the first Prime Minister of the 
Union of South Africa. In his youth in Vrede in 
the Orange Free State, he was drawn to the great 

[Botha] received three years of formal education 
at the local school, but he always preferred the 
outdoors to the classroom. At the time farmers 
rarely spent a long time in one place. After 
establishing a farm, they would set off on hunting 
and trading expeditions. Wandering became 
Louis 's life as he grew; many an evening was 
spent around a camp fire talking, telling jokes or 
playing the concertina, which along with his 
sunny disposition, added to his popularity}^ 

Social dancing 

A visitor to the Boer region in 1888 

The people are excessively fond of music and 
dancing; concertina, harmonium, and fiddle are 
their dehght. A withered Hottentot dwarf will 
draw a strain from the sole of an old 
shoe strung with sinew, and men 
and maidens will vigorously dance 
to it for hours. For dancing there is 
no touching the English Afrikander, 
and his measures seem quite 

English illustrator and travel 
writer John Guille Millais (1865- 
1931) was in South Africa on a 
wildlife safari in the early 1890s 
when he captured an image of a 
Boer couple dancing in the kitchen 
of their cottage near Middelburg, 
Natal province (Figure 5); the man 
is playing the concertina as he 
dances by holding the instrument 
behind the back of his partner. 

An 1899 account, just before 
the start of the Second Boer War, 
also describes the Boer passion for 
concertina music and dancing: 

the smallest pretext, or none at all, they will 
organize what they call a "dance-ball-party. " On 
the afternoon of the pre-arranged day the 
meisjes, or misses, and the young men roll up 
from all the surrounding farms, from a distance, 
may be, of thirty miles. . . . The living room of the 
host has been carefully cleared of its never 
superabundant furniture, a few wooden forms, or 
planks on empty gin cases, put around the sides, 
and a couple of reflecting paraffin lamps hung on 
the walls. 

The dancing begins at 5 in the afternoon to the 
music of a concertina played by a "Cape boy, " 
which is to say a half colored man. Everyone 
appears in their ordinary dress, uncouth, untidy, 
and slouchy in the extreme. The women almost 
invariably wear black with, perhaps, a bit of 
colored ribbon. The men are in corduroys or 
cheap tweeds, often wearing their "smasher" 
hats and shod in heavy veldtschoens, or boots. 

No "square " dances are performed, but one 
dance is like another — a slow, jumpy, heavy. 

The Boers are inordinately fond of 
dancing, reports a London paper. On 

Figure 5. A Boer family at home. A young couple is dancing; the man is 
playing the German concertina while they dance on the dirt tloor. Drawing 
by John Guille Millais in A Breath from the Velcit, 1895. 


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The Concertina and the Boers 

monotonous whirl, something between an 
elephantine waltz and a cumbersome polka. The 
girls sometimes place their two hands on their 
partner 's shoulders and the men clasp the girls ' 
waists with their two hands. 

After a few hours of serious jumping about, the 

room has to be cleared, for, the floor being of 
earth, a terrible dust is knocked up and, as the 
doors and windows are invariably closed, the 
atmosphere becomes thick with floating clouds of 
dust. Everyone goes out into the stoep and is 
refreshed by dop (Boer brandy), lemonade, 
cookies (cakes) and sweets. In the meantime the 
room is swept and sometimes a calabash of 
bullock's blood is brought in with which the floor 
is smeared by the natives. From time to time — 
say, every two or three hours — this is repeated, 
so that intervals of dancing, dusty cloudiness, 
refreshments on the verandah and smearing of 
the floor succeed one another periodically. 

This sort of thing goes on until about 8 in the 
morning, when everyone gets a bit sleepy. A 
general adjournment takes place. The women 
collect in the side room and snatch a few hours ' 
sleep and the men lie down in the wagon house, 
or under their carts on the veldt, to smoke and 
rest. At about noon, after a hearty meal, they 
begin dancing again until late in the afternoon. 
At last they go home after about four and twenty 
hours of it and scatter over the veldt to their far 
distant homes. 

This style of dancing, along with the dust, 
occurred at the Cape as well, with the Cape 
Dutch descendants of those who had not made 
the Great Trek. The following account was 
written in 1900 about earlier years there: 

And who has not heard of the Dutch dances at 
the Cape? . . . They danced on the mud floor in 

the voorkammer — the living room of the house, 
into which the door opens from the outside — and 
the dust rose thicker and thicker until you could 
scarcely see across the other room. Then there 

was a pause, during which they watered the 
floor, and it, of course, became thick mud, and 
was ruination to the dresses. But the Boer girls 

generally change their frocks two or three times 
during the evening, in order to show off the 
extent of their wardrobe, and from their youth up 
are accustomed to dirt in the ballroom, so they 
do not take their soiled raiment much to heart. 
On they go, dancing merrily, often to the 
concertina where they can 't get a piano, with 
their arms entwined around each other 's necks in 
the Dutch fashion}'^ 

Flooring was always a challenge in pioneer 
life on the veldt, and it led to a uniquely South 
African dance, the vastrap. The Boer term 
vastrap emerged in the early twentieth century as 
a catch-aU term for lively Boer-style dancing of 
various rhythms and meters; vastrap means, 
Uterally, "stamp-down." According to current 
boerekonsertina player Sean Minnie, "one theory 
is that people compacted the dirt floors in their 
houses and barns to music by stamping it down 
with their feet. So they were invited to attend a 
'vastrap' and over time the word got to mean a 
dance."^° Boer music historian Wilhelm Schultz 
explained this process in a bit more detail; 

Many of the old farm houses were not fitted with 
wooden floors on account of the cost. When the 
farmer had completed his building, which could 
also be a barn, the floor had to be made from 
clay. For this purpose, generous use is made of 
"ant heaps" (actually, the mounds built by 
termites over many years). The top portion of the 
ant heaps are collected (which usually contain 
the living termites), which are mixed in with the 
clay, to form a tough mortar, which is used for 
the filling of the hollow space under the floor. 
Because this mortar is still very spongy, it has to 
be consolidated as much as possible. The farmer 
would then arrange a festivity, and call up all is 
neighbors for the vastrap. You can imagine all he 
tramping going on, until the floor is properly 
consolidated. In the meantime, all the festivities 
have been proceeding very well! . . . They are 
then allowed to dry properly, which may take a 
few days. When the new floors are dry, they are 
smeared with cow dung}^ 

Zak van der Vyver, a South African now 
living in England who plays in the Boer style, 


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The Anglo-German Concertina 

remembers this last step: "I remember helping 
out my grandmother to do this. Cow dung [was] 
mixed with water to a thickish liqviid and 
trowelled over the surface . . . [it] lasted for 
years."'^ Several of the earliest Boer musical 
groups to be recorded incorporated the term 
vastrap into their names, like Die Vyf 
Vastrappers andZ)7e Lydenburg Vastrappers. 

When Cecil Rhodes passed through Pretoria 
in 1897 and 1898, he and a colleague attended a 

dance at the nearby village of Enkeldoom. The 
flooring was made up of a wagon canvas spread 
on the ground, and the music, as usual, included a 

We went on by way of Enkeldoom, where there is 
a Dutch community, and where a "bucksail" 
dance was being held that night in Rhodes 's 
honor. For the uninitiated, I may explain that a 
bucksail dance is held in the open. The ground is 
flattened down and the big tent or bucksail, 
which is used to cover wagons, is spread over it 
to form a dancing floor. Partners are selected, 
and these are retained during the whole of the 
dance, which generally lasts from sunset to 
sunrise, with intervals for refreshments. The 
orchestra usually consists of a concertina and 
guitar or fiddle, but in default of these a mouth- 
organ or two does suffice. The dance was a very 
vigorous one}^ 

A fascination with the concertina 

As the Second Boer War began, newspapers 
around the globe began to run articles about the 
Boer to satisfy the curiosity of readers eager to 
learn about those who would bravely rise up 
against the British Crown. Many of these articles 
comment on the passion of Boer people for 
concertinas. The account below, from a traveler's 
story of his trip to the Transvaal, was written in 
London in 1900 but variations of it were printed 
in the United States as well as in New Zealand.^"* 
If the tenor of this Englishman's writing seems 
more than a bit scathing and acidic toward the 
Boer, it is worth recalling that the account was 
written in a time of escalating tension between 
Britain and the South African Republics, just two 


months before the various British ultimatums that 
resulted in war. It may also be recalled from 
Chapters 2 and 3 that the elitist British press of 
that time was every bit as hard on its own 
country's players of the German concertina as it 
was on those of the Boer. Beyond all that, the 
story reveals much about the instrument's great 
popularity with the Boer at the turn of the 

The Musical Boer. 

His Everlasting Concertina. 

Every Boer believes himself to be a born 
musician, but whence this idea remains a 
mystery, writes Dudley Richard in the London 
Musical Courier, and every Boer homestead 
possesses some musical instrument, as a rule a 
concertina, though in some cases the family has 
risen to the grandeur of a harmonium. The latter, 
however, is kept chiefly for ornament, and is used 
only on grand occasions, while the concertina is 
in use every day, and at all hours of the day. Now 
the concertina is all right in its way if the 
performer can play it, but when his only 
knowledge is that it "sings loud, " and his one 
object is to extract all the "song" he can, it is apt 
to pall on the listener. When the Boer goes away 
on a transport journey he takes his concertina 
with him. From every waggon trekking slowly 
along the dusty road you will hear strains of this 
instrument breaking out on the quiet air, and if 
you give a backward glance, you will see the boss 
stretched out on his mattress in the tent of the 
waggon, pipe in mouth, grinding out some world- 
forgotten tune. When the waggon outspans, the 
owner will climb out, take his seat on the water- 
keg, and serenade the Kaffirs as they build the 
fire and prepare the coffee. When the night closes 
in, the transport rider will play himself to sleep. 
On the farm, too, the concertina is never idle, for 
the "hoys " take it with them, as they go out in the 
early morning to watch the cattle feed, and again 
in the evening, when they count the stock as they 
are driven in. 

Stolen for a Prayer Meeting. 

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The Concertina and the Boers 

When a nachtmaal [a type of church weekend 
centered around the nachtmaal, or Holy 
Communion] is in progress at the village, the 
storekeepers prepare for the rush by increasing 
their stock and ordering a new supply of 
concertinas, and the number of these instruments 
sold in the village during the few days ' meeting is 
greater than might be credited. The number 
"jumped" when the storemen are not looking 
would also total something considerable, as very 
many, mostly made in Germany, and of a cheap, 
gaudy pattern, will be lying about promiscuously, 
a temptation to the Boer. . . . 

Why the Women are Popular. 

It is a strange fact that the musical talent in the 
Transvaal seems a particular endowment of the 

men, the women never even attempting any 
musical display — it would not be considered 
correct; in fact, it would be as incorrect for a 
Boer woman to play the concertina as for an 
Englishwoman to smoke a pipe in the streets. No 
European has ever got to the root of this idea, 
but it is firmly established. It is for this reason, I 
believe, that the average traveller in the Republic 
is, as a rule, more favourably impressed with the 
women folk than the men. Some of the young 
Boers who have been educated in town, must, 
however, be excluded from this category, as 
many are fair musicians and own good 
instruments. The one time when the sound of the 
concertina pleases is on a quiet, moonlight night, 
as you sit on the stoep and the weird charm of the 
South African night holds you captive. I have 
then listened spellbound for hours, but in the 
morning, when the young brother has taken his 
instrument and started operations, I have walked 
away hastily lest I might strangle him}^ 

The story gives a good accounting of the 
distribution of German concertinas — they were 
sold by shopkeepers in each village. It also 
mentions a dearth of women players, something 
apparent even today among Boer concertina 
players, although a recent photograph of a 
player's meeting as well as a recent CD recording 
(see Figures 14 and 20, below) shows that they 

The concertina in the Second Boer War 

The Boer war involved people from three 

cultures, the Boers, the British (along with 
soldiers from various parts of their Empire), and 
more peripherally, the Zulus. The concertina was 
very popular within each of these cultures, at a 
time coincident with the very peak of the 
instrument's global popularity. It is not surprising 
that stories of the war include references to the 
concertina. A British writer of 1900 was not shy 
about recommending what he and his compatriots 
should do with the Boers' concertinas when and 
if the war was won: 

The Boer 's one musical instrument is the 
concertina. He plays this everywhere — while 
trekking in a wagon, in laager, or while tending 
cattle. . . . When the Boers are disarmed, their 
concertinas will be left to them}^ 

In the early days of the war the Boer had the 
upper hand. They began sieges of British 
garrisons at Ladysmith, Mafeking, and 
Kimberley, and had decisive victories at 
Stormberg, Magersfontein, and Colenso. A 
British army regiment was marching toward the 
relief of Ladysmith on the morning before the 
battle at Colenso, which was fought on December 
15, 1899. In the words of a British officer there, 
John Black Atkins, 

/ cannot help remembering an incident which 
happened as that column wound past my tent, 
perhaps because it was one of those incidents 
which are trifling enough to seize the mind 
peremptorily on grand occasions. A Zulu driver 
lashed out with his long whip at his mules, and 
instantly let drop from his left hand, with a 
curious native cry of despair, that cherished 
Kaffir instrument, a concertina. The moving 
column moved on; "nor all the piety nor wit" of 
the Zulu could lure it back to recover the 
concertina. But the leader of the mounted 
company coming behind noticed the instrument 
lying on the ground. "Mind that concertinal " he 
shouted. "Pass the word! " He pulled his horse 
aside, the word was passed, a line of horses in 
the middle of the company swerved, the forest of 


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The Anglo-German Concertina 

legs passed, and behold, the concertina lay 
untouched. The next company leader threw up his 
hand like a driver in the Strand. "Look out; mind 
the concertina! " "Mind the windjammer, " said 
one man to another in tones (as they seemed) of 
deep personal resentment if a horse 's hoofs go 
dangerously near the precious thing. And thus all 
the rest of the brigade passed, hurrying on to use 
all the latest and most civihsed means for killing 
men and destroying property, and minding the 
concertina tenderly as they went; so that when 
all the dancing sea of legs had passed over it the 
concertina still lay unscratched on the ground, 
and I picked it up and took it into my tent}^ 

The British army lost one hundred forty-three 
soldiers killed, seven hundred fifty-six wounded 
and two hundred twenty captured in that battle — 
no doubt some of those soldiers who so gingerly 
stepped around the Zulu's lost concertina were 
among them. 

Approximately seven thousand Zulu and 
other African mine workers from Natal were 
stranded near Johannesburg at the outbreak of 
warfare; they lost their jobs when the mines 
closed, and were far from their homes in Natal. A 
British government official for the Natal Native 
Affairs Department named Marwick took that: 

"If le ft to find their own way back to Natal, 
[they] would starve on the veldt. " Despite 
discouragement from the Natal Ministry, 
Marwick decided to try to bring the Natal 
refugees out by himself. The authorities refused 
to provide room on the railway. There was only 
one solution. Marwick cabled again to Natal. 

"So that my proposed action may 

not embarrass you, please suspend me from 

office. If I get natives through without loss of life, 

you could please yourself about re-instating me. " 

His o ffer was accepted. He was proposing to 

walk with the three thousand Zulus 

and four thousand other Africans all the way to 


There had been strange scenes in the great 
exodus from the Rand, but none stranger, 
perhaps, than the scene that followed. At the 
head of the Marwick 's procession of Africans 


were a couple of Boer policemen. Behind them, 
marching thirty abreast, were a group of 
musicians, playing concertinas. They played 
popular African tunes. Behind the musicians 
marched an immense body of men, Zulus in 
African or European dress, all the tribes of 
Natal. On 7th they reached Heidleb erg; on the 
10th Waterval, over a hundred miles south-east 
of Johannesburg; by the 13thy they had marched 
the 1 70 miles to Joubert 's camp at Volkrust on 
the Natal frontier. . . . Marwick's epic march had 
saved seven thousand Natal Africans from 



A 1900 drawing by illustrator W. T. Maud 
shows British troops in the streets of Pretoria, 
where black (perhaps Zulu) street musicians are 
playing a German concertina, fiddle, and guitars; 
one is dancing (Figure 6). 

At the siege of Mafeking, which lasted from 
October 1899 to May 1900, both sides settled 
into trench warfare, and an incident involving a 
concertina provided one of the most widely 
reported and illustrated minor events of the war. 
As British Major F. D. Bailie wrote in his diary, 

16th. Very little shelling. The Cape Boys in the 
advance trenches were playing a concertina, and 

so chaffed the Boers, saying they were dancing, 
and asking them to send some ladies, &c. , that 
one of them, either attracted by the music or 
bursting with repartee, popped up his head, and 

was incontinently shot by a wily Cape Boy, to the 
intense delight of the others. They have a distinct 
sense of humour, though possibly a grim one}'^ 

An Irish soldier reported the incident 
similarly in his diary, as follows: 

The Cape Boys shot a Boer today in the 
Brickfields. The former were playing a 
concertina, jigging and singing and shouting to 
the Boers to send over some of their vrouws, as 
they wanted dancing partners. One of the Boers 
looked over the fort wall and was immediately 
shot dead by our riflemen. Ruse of War. 

The event was widely remarked upon and 
illustrated in the British press (Hgure 7). The 

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The Concertina and the Boers 

Figure 6. British troops witli African street musicians, one 
witli German concertina, in Pretoria, 1900. Drawing by 
W.T. Maud. 

Figure 7. Illustration of the "musical ruse" at Mafeking 
that resulted in a Boer soldier's death. A Cape Colony 
soldier played an inviting tune on the concertina, 
whereupon a Boer soldier raised his head above a nearby 
trench. He was then shot by the sniper on the right. From 
Cassell 's History of the Boer War, London, 1902. 


The Anglo-German Concertina 

fact that the Westminster Gazette carried the 
story as an example of the humorous side of the 
siege is a sad commentary on the bitterness this 
war created.^' 

A British relief column reached Mafeking in 
May 1900, making an instant hero of Colonel 
(later Lord) Robert Baden-Powell, Mafeking's 
chief defender during the siege. The victory was 
wildly celebrated in London, where people were 
looking for good news after strings of early 
losses to the Boers. The concertina was present 
there as well: 

To-night, although the excitement increases in 

intensity and the crowds are hourly thickening 
until it is almost impossible to pass through the 
streets, and the scenes of the Queen 's jubilee are 
quite eclipsed, the demonstrators are mainly 
composed of the rougher and lower orders, who, 
after indulging freely in liquor, find amusement 
in hat-smashing, throwing paper and confetti and 
in various forms of horse-play, making the streets 
hideous with the noise of tin trumpets, 
concertinas and other musical instruments, and 
in creating ugly rushes along the thoroughfares. 
A cab, or even a seat on a bus, is unobtainable?^ 

As the war dragged on, the tide turned 
against the Boer as large numbers of British 
troops arrived from various places in the British 
Empire. As the various sieges were lifted and 
major cities were occupied by British troops, the 
Boer entered into a guerilla-style campaign in the 
countryside. They served in locally organized 
kommandos (use of that term in the English 
language dates from that war), and were 
constantly on the move. The Boer were natural 
horsemen, and well accustomed to life outdoors. 
As in most wars, there was plenty of time spent 
waiting, and that time was partly filled with 
musical activities in camp, including playing the 
concertina. As John Gooch noted in his recent 
history of the Boer War, 

Music was part-and-parcel of the fun around 
campjires. Assorted musical instruments such as 

violins, mandolins, banjos and concertinas were 
laboriously carted around during the guerilla 
phase. When the opportunity arose during the 


guerilla phase the musicians loved to play their 
music along with female occupants of 
homesteads that had not been burned down. Time 
was also found for dancing with these women to 
the music of concertinas or violins. During the 
guerilla phase enthusiastic smoking concerts, 
with or without female company, were held round 
campfjres or at homesteads. The programmes 
included songs, recitations and one-act plays 
written especially for the occasion?^ 

The British responded to the guerilla 
campaign with a "scorched earth" policy, burning 
Boer farms, and placing Boer families in 
concentration camps, another invention of this 
war. Faced with overwhelming numbers of 
British soldiers, the Boer capitulated. 

After the war, British farm-schools were set 
up in the former Boer republics with an eye 
toward English language training. One person 
identified only as an "English Teacher" had this 
to say about his (or her) experience there: 

7726 children and their homes are as primitive as 
ever; but they are beginning to imitate, and it 
seems just the moment when a good tradition 
may begin. It is the same with songs and music. 
The Kaffir tunes are full of real music; but the 
Boer children seem to have only camp-school 
songs and Moody-and-Sankey Hymns, and a few 
mazurkas and dance tunes of their own, played 
on the concertina with horrible vamping 
accompaniment. Yet they love singing, and, in a 
very short time on summer evenings . . . they are 
shouting Horo My Nut Brown Maiden, or, very 
inappropriately, The First Now ell, or other songs 
learnt in school. . . . Surely there is much that 
should make a farm-school a paradise to a 
teacher who likes to sow in fresh soil; and one 
wishes that many such, bringing all that English 
language can give, should go out to the 
Transvaal . . . one may believe and hope that the 
English schools will hold their own through all 
possible changes^ 

This teacher's verbal assault on Boer folk culture 
was perhaps to be expected — the same British 
elitists of that day had little good to say about 
their own English folk culture at home, which 

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The Concertina and the Boers 

provided people like Cecil Sharp and Maud 
Karpeles their life challenge and work in 
England. We can learn from the above 
description a little about the style of Boer playing 
of dance tunes; like today, there was an emphasis 
on chorded accompaniment — something evident 
in the earUest recordings of Boer music about 
thirty years later. 

Meanwhile, life continued in these veldt 
communities. The following description of a 
1907 wedding shows continuity with the world 
before the war: 

[TJhe stranger will be able to obtain much 
pleasure by attending, as an invited guest, a 
typical Boer wedding. Every guest is expected to 
salute the bride with a loving kiss, and should the 
festivities conclude with a dance, he will admire 
the endurance of the meisjes. Dancing will be 
kept up vigorously in the sweltering voorhuis to 
the strains of a seemingly tireless concertina. As 
the floors of many of these dwellings are 
composed of hardened mud, and the stretching of 
waggon sails, well greased, is the general 
preparation for dancing, it can be imagined that 
the "going" is not easy?^ 

The concertina continued as a part of life in 
the Cape Colony as well. A group leaving Cape 
Town for a holiday out on the veldt in 1902 was 
seen off by musical neighbors: 

To the cracking of whips and yelling of drivers 
and onlookers, the oxen are induced to start, and 
we begin our journey. Such occasions are red- 
letter days, and every one comes out to see us off. 
Our musical friends get up an improvised band, 
consisting of concertinas, tin-whistles, and 
paraffin tins for drums, and play us out of the 



Entering the Modem Age 

In the early twentieth century, big game 
hunting became quite popular for tourists in 
South Africa, and some of the safari leaders were 
Boers. The following story of one hunt in 1933 
may reinforce the notion that music develops a 
strong sense of place: 

Lioness Enjoys Music 

Concertina music and hymns so pleased a lioness 
that she forgot to attack three men in a camp in 
the Transvaal, according to E.K. du Plessis, a 
big-game hunter of South Africa. Du Plessis, a 
professor, andM. van derMerwe were in camp. 
"Van de Merwe was playing a concertina and 
singing hymns, when suddenly a lioness with two 
beautiful cubs stalked into our midst. In tune to 
the concertina I sang to Van derMerwe, 'Keep 
on playing. ' Van derMerwe sang to me, 'Shoot 
the thing. ' I sang back to him, 7 am a God- 
fearing man. Not on a Sunday. 'Meanwhile the 
lioness had lain herself out in our midst with her 
two cubs beside her listening to the music. After 
about ten minutes she got up, and slowly strolled 
off into the bush with her cubs. 

As soon as recorded music and new ragtime 
and jazz music began to be played in the early 
twentieth century, German and Anglo-German 
concertinas were suddenly out of fashion in 
England, Ireland and Australia, and were only 
kept alive by small numbers of musicians in rural 
areas. In New Zealand and the United States, the 
concertina disappeared completely. Not so the 
concertina of the Boer; having become an 
integral and indispensable part of Boer culture 
and identity, it thrived in the early twentieth 
century. Large numbers of recordings were made 
of Boer dance bands in the 1930s, each led by a 
concertina (see below). The concertina was more 
than surviving; it was thriving. 


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The Anglo-German Concertina 

Traditional Boer Dance Music and 

The term boeremusiek (Boer music) is of 
twentieth-century construction; in the nineteenth 
century Boers simply played for dances without 
any need for a term to describe their activities. 
According to Wilhelm Schultz, "it would suffice 
if boeremusiek is defined as instrumental folk 
music, endemic to South Africa, which is played 
in a distinctive manner, and which is primarily 
intended to be dance music."''^ 

An indication of this continued popularity of 
the concertina in playing boeremusiek for social 
dancing can be seen in the travel memoirs of an 
ex-American soldier on a South West Africa 
zoological expedition in 1947. He was in the 
Boer village of Keetmanshoop, technically in 
present day Namibia today but culturally part of 
South Africa then: 

WJnile I was about to go to bed after a wonderfiil 
hot bath. . . . I heard the plaintive music of a 
Boer folk dance in progress. Now revived, I 
decided I would seek out the source of this 
primitive music and the merry-makers of this 
wild frontier town. Out once again on the street, I 
noticed swirling clouds of smoke pouring out of 
open windows of a crude, dimly lighted frame 
building. The crashing of heavy feet I also heard 
upon a board floor. As I entered the dance hall 
the stale stench of tobacco smoke mixed with the 
odor of brandy and perspiration cut into my 
lungs. Shoving my way through the boisterous 
crowd to a corner, I witnessed the festivities 
through the thickening blue haze. The dancing 
was little changed from that of the early 19th 
century when the Boer treks were in motion to 
the far corners of Southern Africa. 

An orchestra consisting of three shaggy-haired 
men played a concertina, fiddle, and banjo with 
all the fervor of the sheep men of the veld. With 
the same monotonous rhythm for each song, the 
pulse beat of Afrikaner Africa, they played their 
beloved tiki drives, wailing, and screeching, far 
into the morning. The ungainly dancers were 
huge homespun men and women, tough as giraffe 
hide, rawboned and seared by the merciless sun, 


intoxicated by brandy and inflamed by the savage 
rhythm, they circled the dance floor. Like 
stampeding elephants, like an armored division 
in action, they crashed and swirled while the frail 
timbered building groaned and rocked as if any 
moment it were to explode. 

The unreality of the event, so different from my 
memory of the college campus Td left far behind 
at [University of California at] Berkeley, became 
almost unbelievable. This was an event out of the 
last century which I would long remember. 

The dances 

The traditional dance music of the Boers 
includes the main late-nineteenth-century 
hallroom-style dances that were popular with 
Europeans around the globe. In South Africa, 
those most popular were the wals (waltz), polka, 
settees (schottische), and masurka (mazurka), 
although others were known as well, including 
quadrilles, cotiUions, and contradances."*" An 
additional dance type that may have originated in 
South Africa is the vastrap, of which more 

A description of these dances and their 
arrival may be found on the website of the 
Tradisionele Boeremusiekkluh van Suid-Afrika 
(Traditional Boer Music Club of South Africa)."^' 
The wals originated in central Europe, and had 
reached England by the early nineteenth century. 
In all likelihood British military bands brought 
this dance to the Cape Colony. The polka came 
from Prague in 1837, and arrived in England and 
Ireland by 1844. By 1845 the polka was danced 
in the Cape Colony at a Bachelor's Ball; new 
polkas were composed and pubUshed in the Cape 
Colony by 1854. A polka of 1891 entitled the 
Oom Paul Polka (Uncle Paul Polka) was 
composed under the name Meryl T. Meryl (the 
pen name of James Hyde, who composed from 
1875 to 1908) and was dedicated to the president 
of the Transvaal Republic, Paul Kruger. In the 
footnote it says, "To fully appreciate this 
exhilarating melody one must hear it played by a 
Transvaal Boer upon a German concertina!""*^ 

The settees (schottische) soon followed the 
poUca as a slower variant. The Euryalus Settees 

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The Concertina and the Boers 

commemorates the visit of Prince Albert to Cape 
Town in 1860, aboard the British warship 
Euryalus. The masurka originated in Warsaw, 
arrived in England by the early 1800s, and 
arrived in Cape Town as early as 1848. In all 
probability it was first introduced by British 
military bands. The nineteenth-century kwadriel 
was known as the set dance in Ireland, the square 
dance in America, and the quadrille in Australia 
and England. It was brought to England in about 
1819 by soldiers returning from the Napoleonic 

Although these are all European dances, 
there is one dance style that has, regardless of its 
origin — which is open to much debate — ^become 
a unique contribution of the music and dance of 
South Africa: the aforementioned vastrap. Even 
though some of the earliest recordings of Boer 
concertina music prominently feature the term 
vastrap, there are apparently no nineteenth- 
century references to it.'*'' Vastrap dances were 
first noted by London newspaper correspondents 
in South Africa in 1913. In a book of that year 
entitled Afrikanderisms, the word vastrap was 
defined as a "Hottentot dance," and the East 
London Dispatch of January 3, 1913 said that 
"The vastrap was performed by a number of 
nondescript characters, who provided much 
amusement by their antics."'*'' 

The term could be defined as, literally, to 
step down on something to secure it. As was 
discussed above, one theory is that people 
compacted the dirt floors in their houses and 
barns to music by stamped down with their feet.'*^ 
An alternative explanation is that it developed 
from the European quickstep dance;"*'' as Wilhelm 
Schultz observes. Die Vyf Dagrekers (the Five 
Daybreakers) recorded a military twostep as a 
vastrap. One of the early groups to be recorded. 
Die Vyf Vastrappers (the Five Vastrappers) 
recorded only one vastrap, a polka, although they 
used the word in their band's tide. An account 
from 1926 states that it was a "type of reel 
danced by one person, with peculiar movements 
of the legs and feet."'*^ Jo Fourie, who collected 
Boer folk music in the 1940s, used the term 
vastrap in association with a waltz. G. H. van 
Rooyen noted in 1965 that "The vastrap 

originated from the barndance, and was 
especially popular with the young people, who 
particularly liked the high kicking steps."''* The 
term has come to be idiomatically applied to an 
energetic style of dance, considered uniquely 
South African. Its meaning and definition 
continue to evolve. As a young Cape Town 
musician described it in 2008: 

On the farms of the Groot Karoo, the vastrap 

dance is closer to the shamanic trance-dances of 
the San/Bushmen, with single dancers employing 
intricate foot movements to the pulse of the 
guitar-driven vastrap beat. . . . Itis a rich and 
diverse style, there are as many variations of as 
there are dialects of Afrikaans. In areas closer to 
large towns, the European influence on vastrap is 
more apparent, although the rhythm is still 
distinctly non-Western. . . . Often a dance will 
begin with more sedate waltzes and popular 
songs, but as the evening wears on, the vastrap 
becomes more prominent, and the veneer of 
"western civilization " can wear very thin indeed 
as the party goes on until the sun comes up!'^'^ 

Not everyone agrees with the shamanistic 
interpretation, however; some think the vastrap 
stamping is "no more than people not knowing 
any dance steps, just walking in step with the 
rhythm. The vigorousness is purely due to the 
male propensity to show off."^° In rural areas, 
according to South African historian Lawrence 
Green, a country house dance is called a vastrap. 
"Many of the tunes heard at a vastrap are 
nameless, for they are composed on the farms by 
the players themselves. The tempo mounts as the 
night wears on, dancers stamp with enthusiasm 
and call, 'Laat deurloop dag toe!' (Let's dance 
until daybreak!)"^' Whichever explanation of its 
origin is correct, the vastrap seems to match the 
wild, pulsating mral dance observed in Namibia 
in 1947, described above. 


Copy rig hied material 

The Anglo-German Concertina 

Figure 8. Die VyfVastrappers in 1926. Tlie Anglo concertina player is Hans Bodenstein, second 
from left. Photograph with thanks to the Tradisionele Boeremusiekklub van Suid-Afrika. 

Early-twentieth-century Boer concertina 
players and recordings 

Some of the earliest recordings of Anglo- 
German concertina players to be found anywhere 
were made in South Africa by Boer players. Die 
Vyf Vastrappers (The Five Vastrappers), a group 
of five musicians led by Anglo players Hans 
Bodenstein and Henry Zeller that played for 
house parties and dances, was the first to record, 
hi 1925, while playing at a party in Brakpan, near 
Johannesburg, they were asked to record a few 
78 rpm wax plates, which were made a few years 
later and sent to London to be processed for 
release on the Regal label. The group later 
recorded for Columbia as well.'^^ Besides the 
concertina, their instruments included two 
guitars, a banjo, and a piano; and they recorded a 
variety of waltzes, polkas, and a mazurka (Figure 

The much-beloved musician Faan Harris 
(1886-1950) came from the Krugersdorp area, 
just northwest of Johannesburg, and played a 
three-row Anglo-German concertina. He met 
guitarist Andries Steyn in 1936; a photo taken in 


1946 (Figure 9) shows the pair playing music 
beside a 1936 Ford pickup truck in the market 
square at Krugersdorp. Harris was an 
extraordinarily talented concertinist, bandleader, 

Figure 9. Concertinist Faan Harris and guitarist Andies 
Steyn in 1936, playing next to a Ford pickup truck in the 
market square at Krugersdorp. Photograph courtesy of 
the Tradisionele Boeremusiekklub van Suid-Afrika. 

Copynghled matefial 

The Concertina and the Boers 

and composer of tunes. Of his waltz 
Hartseerwals he once said, "It is my own waltz, 
and it sprang from my heart." He made a series 
of solo 78 rpm recordings, and also recorded with 
his band. Die Vier Transvalers (The Four 
Transvalers). Besides Harris on concertina, the 
group included two guitars and a cello. Their 
recordings were made in the 1930s and featured 
waltzes, polkas, lancers, a mazurka, and vastrap. 
Harris was friends with many younger players, 
and one of the first actions of the Concertina 
Club of South Africa (the predecessor of the 
Traditional Boer Music Club) when it formed in 
1981 was to mark his gravesite with a stone 
inscribed simply, "Thank you for your very 
special contribution to our traditional Boer 
music" (Figure 10). The tunes of Faan Harris and 
the Four Transvalers are still quite popular, and 
are known by most of the younger traditional 
Boer concertinists.^'' 

Other highly regarded Boer concertina 
players who recorded in the 1930s and 1940s 
include Silver de Lange (1904-1956) with Die 
Vyf Dagbrekers; Chris Chomse (1891-1978) with 
Die Lydenberg Vas trappers; Sample Viljoen with 

Die Ses Hartbrekers; Pietie Prinsloo with Die 
Vier Sprinbokke; WiUie Palm with Die Vier 
Hugenote; Boy Solomon (1878-1950) with Die 
Voortrekker Danskwartet (Figure 11); Chrisjan 
Haamse with Die Plesier Spielers (Figure 12); 
Joe Hooneberg (b. 1877) with the Baanbrekers; 
Japie Laubscher (1919-1981); Regardo (Kerrie) 
Bomman (1891-1968); and Dirk Laas.^"* The 
classic Boer "orchestra" of the early twentieth 
century was headed up by the concertina player, 
who played the melody with or without chords. 
Numerous other musicians on various stringed 
instruments in these groups existed mainly to 
provide chords and rhythm. A study by the late 
Boer musician Piet Bester of fourteen 
boeremusiek groups of the period before World 
War II shows that the concertina and guitar were 
the essential instruments (Figure 13). Banjos and 
pianos, along with the guitar, provided rhythmic 
and chorded backup to the concertina, as did the 
cello. Other melodic instruments, such as violin, 
mandolin, and accordion, were uncommon; the 
concertina was always the lead instrument. 
These Boer orchestras were in high demand for 
dances throughout the 1930s and 1940s. 

Figure 10. The Concertina Club of South Africa dedicating a memorial stone at Faan 
Harris's grave, 1982. From left to right, Mrs. Annie Bosch, Manie Bodenstein, Tom 
Senekal, Nico van Rensburg, Dirk Laas, Johannes La Grange, Piet Bester, Stephaan 
van Zyl. Photo by Sean Minnie. 

The Anglo-German Concertina 


Figure 12. Die Plesier Spielers (The 
Pleasure Players), ca. 1930. Chrisjan 
Haamse, concertina. With thanks to the 
Tradisionele Boeremusiekklub van 

Figure 11. Die 
J 'oorh-ekker 
Danskwartet in the 
1930s. The concertinist 
is Boy Solomon (1879- 
1950); he played a 
Maccann duet. 
Photograph from the 
website of the 
Boeremusiekklub van 

Figure 1 3. Instrumental makeup of 
fourteen Boeremusiek bands of the 
early twentieth century, by 
percentage of bands employing 
each instrument. The concertina 
was ubiquitous, and the lead 
instrument. Data from Piet Bester, 
Tradisionele Boeremusiek: 'n 





The Concertina and the Boers 

Figure 1 4. Die Naglopers. This group took the 1 879 
American song and later early country western hit / 7/ Be All 
Smiles Tonight and recast it as Die Kalfie Wals, a perennial 
Boeremusiek favorite. The concertina player is Poah 
Stapelberg. Photo courtesy of the Boeremusiekgilde. 

Late-twentieth-century decline and resurgence 

The middle years of the twentieth century 
were disastrous ones for Anglo concertina 
playing everywhere in the world. The local 
effects of this period in Boer South Africa were 
less disastrous than elsewhere, but still the music 
lost popularity. As summed up by Wilhelm 

Boeremusiek experienced its heyday during the 
thirties, particularly during the commemoration 
of the Great Trek in 1938. The development of 
boeremusiek was hampered during the Second 
World War. After the war the record industry 
experienced an explosive development, especially 

with the introduction of the microgroove 
record. Unfortunately this also caused the 
country to be inundated with foreign music 
recordings, of which quite a lot was of 
inferior quality, and which only lasted a 
short while in circulation. Unfortunately this 
caused the suppression of the development 
and support of indigenous Afrikaans 

■ 56 


The playing of the concertina, along 
with Boer dance music, did not die out in 
South Africa at this time as it did in places 
like the United States and New Zealand — 
and very nearly did in teland, England, and 
Australia — but it was nonetheless in serious 
decline by the 1970s, coincidentally during 
tumultuous years for the country as well. 
Alarmed at the music's decline, a group of 
musicians took action, forming the 
Tradisionele Boeremusiekklub (TBK; 
Traditional Boer Music Club) in 1981. As 
recounted by that club's website," 

During 1980, Piet Bester visited Hannes 
Viljoen, the well-known concertina builder 
and player. Hannes asked Piet to help with 
the erection of a tombstone for Faan Harris, 
the leader of Die Vier Transvalers. Tnquiries 
about the task brought Piet Bester in contact with 
Kalie de Jager, and they also discussed it with 
Manie Bodenstein, Jimmy Henning and Danie 
Erasmus. They decided not to only erect a 
tombstone, but to found a club with the following 
mission: "The collection, preservation and 
enhancement of Traditional Boer Music. To do 
research about the historic development thereof 
and to ensure the safekeeping of all collections 
for future generation. ". From this, the above 
mentioned people founded the Concertina Club 
of South Africa on 12 March 1981 in the offices 
of the South African Broadcasting Corporation 
(SA UK). Although the concertina is the lead 
instrument, it was later decided to change the 
name of the club to The Traditional Boer Music 
Club so that all instruments would have equal 


The Anglo-German Concertina 

Figure 15. Members of the Concertina Club of South Africa, early 1980s, on 
the occasion of the re-release of the recordings of Faan Harris and Die Tier 
Transvalers. Front row: Danie Labuschagne, Plato Michael, Lourens Aucamp 
Middle: Tom Senekal. Back row: Johannes le Grange, Piet Bester, Kalie de 
Jager, Jasper Vlok, Stephaan van Zyl. With thanks to Kalie de Jager. 

The tombstone at Faan Harris's grave was 
erected, and most if not all of the old 78 rpm 
recordings were preserved, starting with those of 
Harris (Figure 15). In addition, books about 
boeremusiek have been prepared and distributed, 
all with a goal of preserving the traditional music 
and dance of Boer South Africa. 

With time, under the increasing pressure of 
younger players who listen to modern styles of 
popular music, questions about maintaining the 
integrity of traditional Boer music arose. This 
was the local manifestation of the same question 
that has been struggled with in many countries: is 
traditional folk music to be kept relatively static, 
to purely reflect the music of our forefathers, or 
should it be allowed to develop further, with new 
styles and musical instruments? This debate 
seems to have caused a split in the membership 
of the TBK. Those who favored a less restrictive 
definition of Boer music {Boeremusiek in al sy 
vorme, literally, "Boer music in all its forms") 
left the TBK in 1989, founding Die 
Boeremusiekgilde (The Boer Music Guild)."^^ The 
musicians in this organization, while for the most 
part keeping within the confines of the traditional 
dance rhythms of Boeremusiek, have embraced 
newer musical instruments such as electric 

guitars, drum sets, piano 
accordions, and electronic 

The concertina is still the 
typical lead instrument, however, 
in many if not most "modernist" 
Boeremusiek recordings. One 
aspect of their playing is 
particularly remarkable. Whereas 
the old style dance music, not only 
in Boer South Africa but also in 
England, Ireland, and indeed 
throughout western Europe, was 
typically diatonic (meaning, using 
only the seven notes of the major 
scale), new-style Boer concertina 
players have made full use of their 
40-button Wheatstone and 
Wheatstone-style instruments by 
adding chromatic half steps to their 
playing. As we shall see in the tune 
examples below, this process had 
already started in the time of Faan Harris and 
others during boeremusiek' s heyday. Younger 
players use more complex and "modern- 
sounding" chord structures that go significantly 
beyond the simple three-chord structures used by 
the old-style, two-row players in the nineteenth 
century. Players of this style today, which 
approaches that of the piano accordion in 
complexity, sound, and effect, include 
concertinists such as Nico van Rensburg and 
Neels Mattheus. 

Although there are small numbers of "fully 
chromatic" Anglo players elsewhere in the world 
(Harry Scurfield and the late Fred Kilgore are 
two examples in England), South African 
concertina players seem to constitute the only 
large group of Anglo-players that has fully 
embraced modern, more chromatic music genres. 
This may be an important development for the 
future of the Anglo-German concertina. In 
country after country, the Anglo has lost ground 
or even gone extinct during the onslaught of 
modern pop music, primarily because the Anglo 
is typically played as a diatonic instrument. The 
tunes that accompanied nineteenth-century 
ballroom dance were primarily diatonic, and fit 


The Concertina and the Boers 

well the compass and keyboard of the German 
and Anglo-German concertina. Where the Anglo 
has been tied to that diatonic music and dance, 
the Anglo has suffered large losses in popularity 
when those dances go out of fashion (see Chapter 
2). Revival efforts for the concertina in most 
countries have tried to resurrect Anglo playing 
either by separating listening to the tunes from 
playing for the disappearing dances (as in 
Ireland), or by trying to revive the old dances (as 
in Australia). Modernist South African playing 
may represent the first steps past that point, by 
fully embracing the chromatic elements of late- 
twentieth and early-twenty-first-century music. It 
will be interesting to see if this trend continues to 
develop in future years. 

The efforts of both Boer music clubs have 
resulted in part in the growth of healthy numbers 
of current Boer players. The Traditional Boer 
Music Club and the Boer Music Guild reportedly 
have about eight hundred and twelve hundred 
members each, respectively. By contrast, the 
International Concertina Association, 
headquartered in the much more populous UK, 

has about three hundred members. A photograph 
of a 2003 Boer concertina gathering reflects this 
popularity (Figure 16). The membership numbers 
of these clubs along with the activities of four 
concertina builders supporting Boer music (see 
below) indicate that this is one of the most 
vibrant concertina cultures in the world today. 

Within each club, however, the recent 
decline in dancing is dramatic. As observed by 
Schultz in 2001: 

Although boeremusiek, in the early years, with or 
without song, served a role for the 
accompaniment of dances, it became quite 
popular in recent years just for listening to; this 
observation is supported by the popularity of the 
competitions arranged by the SAUK (South 
A frican Broadcasting Corporation). During the 
regular meetings of the TBK, where only 
traditional music is played, there are always a 
large attendance of customers, who specifically 
attend for listening to the music, and who do not 
partake of the dances 

The Anglo-German Concertina 

Issues for the future of boeremusiek are 
complex, and go far beyond the popularity of the 
traditional dances. In the years following 
apartheid, many South African intellectuals have 
been critical of boeremusiek and the folk culture 
of the Boer, as in this extract from Sheila 
Patterson's 2004 The Last Trek: a Study of the 
Boer People and the Afrikaner Nation: 

Despite the present trend towards a wider South 
Africa or western spirit, Afrikaner writers have 
nevertheless laid the foundations of a literature 
that is distinctively Afrikaans. This cannot be 
claimed for Afrikaner achievements in the other 
arts, which are in any case, by virtue of their 
medium, more international. In music the only 
form which could be attributed to the Boers is 
that of the folk songs and dances called in their 
jazzed-up modern form "boeremusiek". . . . It is 
at present fashionable in more intellectual 
Afrikaner circles to despise boeremusiek, and its 
original media, the concertina and guitar. This 
type of music is also felt by the national-minded 
to be undignified and unworthy of the resurgent 

Such a view, however distasteful to those 
who value traditional music, is not uncommon, 
and similar views were expressed of traditional 
music in Ireland and in Cajun French Louisiana 
in the mid-twentieth century. The music of those 
cultures has since become extremely popular 
both in their home areas and abroad, and the 
secret to this resurgence seems to lie in 
recapturing the hearts and minds of the young. 
Unfortunately, as Schultz has said, "The majority 
of our youth abhor our boeremusiek, except 
maybe a small minority who have been won 
over. Sorry to say this!"*^ Young Afrikaans 
artists there, as elsewhere, are being drawn more 
and more into pop music and rock 'n' roU. 

Modem players 

All is not lost with the usage of the 
concertina by the young in South Africa, 

however. At the beginning of rock 'n' roll, some 
groups of young Boer 'rock ' musicians continued 
to include the concertina, as in the 1960 group 


The Young Ones (Figure 17). In more recent 
years, there has been a strong effort in some 
schools to maintain elements of Boer music in a 
more modem format; these bands continue to 
feature the concertina as the lead instrument but 
also include electric guitars and drums (Figures 
18 and 19). Some young concertina players are 
adding country and western numbers to their 
repertoires,''^ and it wiU be interesting to see what 
the future brings. 

Concerns about the future aside, Boer 
concertina playing is in a healthy position in 
terms of current numbers of adult Anglo-players 
relative to other countries. There are dozens of 
extremely skillful and talented Boer players who 
have recorded in recent decades, although these 
recordings are typically available only in South 
Africa (Figure 20). Some of these recorded 
players include Fanie Bosch, Chris Theron, Piet 
Theron, Kerrie Bornmann, Hannes Viljoen, 
Willie Bauscher, Willie Welgens, Manie 
Bodenstein, Nico de Rensburg, Willie Fourie, 
Nic Potgieter, Tom Senekal, George de Hunter, 
Peter Zwart, Jury Dickers, Neils Mattheus, 
Stephaan van Zyl, Dirkie Uys, Koot Brits, Boet 
Steyn, Willie Nelson, and Hennie Henn.^"* Many 
non-South African concertina aficionados 
received their first taste of Boer concertina 
playing on the Anglo concertina by way of the 
2005 Anglo International collection of 
recordings, which included South African tunes 
by Zak van der Vyver and Regardt de Bruin.''^ 
Recordings of South Afiican players, including 
reissues of many of the classic recordings of the 
1920s and 1930s, are available from both the 
websites of Die Boeremusiekgilde and Die 
Tradisionele Boeremusiekklub.^^ 

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The Concertina and the Boers 

Figure 17. The Young Ones, ca. 1960. In Boer 
culture, the Anglo-German concertina has adapted 
well to rapidly changing musical fashions. Koos du 
Plessis is the concertinist. Photo courtesy the 
Boeremusiekgilde, with thanks to Wia Kotze and 
Kalie de Jager. 

Figure 18. The Bredell School Junior Band, 2002. 
Bredell is an eastern suburb of Johannesburg. 
Concertinist Regardt de Bruin later recorded a few 
tracks for the Anglo International CD of 2008. 
Photograph by At Louw, courtesy the 
Boeremusiekgilde, with thanks to Wia Kotze and 
Kalie de Jager. 

Figure 19. The Junior Band at Grey 
College, Bloemfontein, 2008. The 
concertina continues to be the lead 
instrument in Boeremusiek in the twenty- 
first century, even with the young. The 
photo is from the Boeremusiekgilde, with 
thanks to Wia Kotze and Kalie de Jager. 

The Anglo-German Concertina 

Figure 20. Examples of the wide variety of recordings by modern era Boer 
concertina players. These CDs are published in South Africa by Alfa Ataljee. With 
thanks to Kalie de Jager and 

The Concertinas of Boer Music 

In the nineteenth century, nearly all 
concertinas used by Boer musicians were made 
in Germany and imported by shopkeepers all 
over South Africa. Because they were 
inexpensive to moderate in price, depending 
upon the model, they were affordable and used 
by both Europeans and native Africans alike. A 
British trade report for South Africa of 1903 

The Germans . . . monopolise the trade in 
concertinas, which are largely sold to the 
natives. For this particular article they generally 
quote c. i.f. prices, which are very advantageous. 
Cheap musical instruments of all kinds are, as a 
ride, German^^ 

In the year 1902, according to that source, fully 
ninety-seven thousand three hundred and fifteen 
musical instruments were imported from 
Germany to South Africa. 

These German concertinas were typically 
wooden-ended, with two rows of keys. Although 
not as responsive as more expensive Anglo- 
German concertinas, German concertinas were 
prized for their sound, which included a reedy 
tone and bouncy rhythms caused by the 
limitations of the two-row keyboard. A favored 
model of German concertina used by Boer 
players was double-noted in octaves (the so- 
called "organ" tuning). In the post-World War II 
era, these were typically "Scholer" or "Galotta" 
brand concertinas imported from East Germany. 
Today, some use Italian-made "Bastari" 
concertinas, but an important development has 
been the fabrication of new two- row wooden- 
ended boerekonsertinas in South Africa; this 
term refers to concertinas that are largely built 
following old German techniques with 
accordion-style reeds, but with an improved 
action. They are built by Danie Labuschagne and 
Stephaan van Zyl (Figures 21 and 22).^** 

The Concertina and the Boers 

Figure 21. Danie Labuschagne with a first ten-key 
prototype of his boerelionsei-tina. With thanits to the 
Tradisionele Boeremusie]<]ilub van Suid-Afrika. 

Figure 22. A newly constructed two-row boerelconsertina. 
Photo from the Tradisionele Boeremusiekklub van Suid- 

Anglo-German concertinas made in England 
by Lachenal, Jones, and (in the twentieth 
century) Wheatstone were also exported to South 
Africa, but to a smaller group who could afford 
them. Many if not most of the early-recorded 
Boer concertinists who played in semi- 
professional bands, for example Faan Harris, 


The Anglo-German Concertina 

Hans Bodenstein, and Chris Chomse, used 
English-built Anglo-German concertinas of two 
or, more typically, three rows. These were more 
responsive and allowed more efficient use of air, 
a trait that is particularly useful for rhythmic 
chording. In modern South Africa, these Anglo- 
German concertinas with English-style improved 
reeds and mechanics are called engelse- 

Wheatstone Anglo concertinas, produced 
from about 1910, were especially popular, and 
Wheatstone 40-button Anglos were imported in 
large numbers from the late 1920s through the 
1970s. According to Mark Davies, a Yorkshire 
concertina collector and player, 

I knew Harry Minting, the last Manager of 
Wheatstones, and he always said for a long time 
after the Second World War most of the better 
quality anglos went to South A frica. I have a 
number of Wheatstone catalogues from the 
1950 's and I960 's. The 1950 's catalogue shows 
the Model 4A anglo 30 key metal ends, i. e. as per 
most of the South African Wheastones, to be 
priced at £40 and 3 shillings. . . . A photograph 
also shows a lot of the same model "being 
packed ready for export to world markets. " The 
instrument I have acquired clearly was 
manufactured during the Boosey & Hawkes 

According to American concertina historian 
Robert Gaskins, 

Steve Dickinson tells me that — by the late 1960s 
and early 1970s, the period when he has first- 
hand knowledge — virtually all of Wheatstone 's 
Anglo production went to South A frica. 
Specifically, he remembers that the instruments 
were sold to a company called "Goode, Durrani 
& Murray " who had offices in London as well as 
in Johannesburg. There apparently was a large 
imperial trading company of that name, with 
interests in Australia and in South Africa, and 
they woidd have had a London office. But they 
might have been only an intermediary, with 
distribution in South Africa handled by another 

In recent decades there has been a drain of 
these old Wheatstone concertinas out of South 
Africa, as the worldwide concertina "revival" has 
grown. This situation inspired several South 
African builders to begin to manufacture new 
engelsekonsertina in the manner of the old 
Wheatstones. Hannes Viljoen (d. 2004) began 
repairing concertinas in 1943, and soon built his 
own six-, eight- and twelve-sided "Havil" models 
(Figure 23). He also founded the Konsertinaklub 
van Suid-Afrika, in 1981. Pierre Gerber also built 
fine "Olga" concertinas, but discontinued 
building some years ago due to bad health. 
Current builders include Allen Green, Koot Brits, 
Willie van Wyk, and Wessel Potgieter.^' 

Figure 23. The late Hannes Viljoen with several eight- and 
twelve-sided instruments of his own manufacture. From 
the Tradisionele Boeremusiekklub van Suid-Afrika. 

Although the predominant concertinas in 
Boer music are the two aforementioned types of 
German system instruments, there are a few 
players of the English system as well as the 
Crane and Maccann duet concertinas. For 
example, Joe Hooneberg with Die Baanbrekers 
played an English system concertina, and Boy 
Solomon with Die Voortrekker Danskwartet 
played a Maccann duet. Regardless of the 
concertina system, however, their style of playing 
is unmistakably that of Boeremusiek. 


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The Concertina and the Boers 

The existence of five current concertina 
builders in a nation of forty-five million people, 
of whom only about four million are of European 
ancestry and less than two miUion of whom are 
Boer, makes South Africa stand out as the 
country with the most concertina builders per 
capita — and, for fine quality "concertina reed" 
English-style construction, the country with the 
most builders in total. It is also apparent that the 
per-capita occurrence of Boer players among the 
two million or so Boers in South Africa is also 
exceedingly high. The Traditional Boer Music 
Club and the Boer Music Guild together have 
over two thousand members. In relative terms, 
this would be the equivalent of having sixty 
thousand Anglo players in the UK! 

Style and Technique 

Boeremusiek concertina playing originated 
with the two-row German concertina. These were 
inexpensive instruments, perfect for the rough 
life on the veldt because they were easy to 
replace — ^it has been said that one all-night dance 
could wear out a German concertina. Regardo 
(Kerrie) Bomman (1891-1968) was one of the 
great players of the boerekonsertina. Bom near 
Vereniging in humble circumstances to a musical 
family, he also played an English-made Anglo 
concertina, banjo, guitar, piano, and comet. In 
recent years, the old two-row boerekonsertina 
style has regained some of its earlier popularity, 
partly because of the playing of Stephaan van 
Zyl, who also builds the instrument. 

Expanded-keyboard, 30- to 40-button metal- 
ended concertinas have changed the sound of the 
modern players who use them, relative to their 
nineteenth-century German concertina-playing 
forebears, and relative to those who continue to 
favor the traditional boerekonsertina. These 
engelsekonsertina instmments were already in 
heavy use by the time of the earliest recordings 
of the 1930s, as most of the early recorded 
concertinists used them. These newer instmments 
have a brighter tone, but more importantly, are 
played in a style that requires many fewer 
changes in bellows direction, yielding a 
smoother, more flowing style. This is possible 
because the expanded keyboard is not only more 
chromatic, but it allows many commonly used 
notes to be played in either direction. These C/G 
instmments are well suited to playing in the keys 
of Bb, Eb and F," and some Boer players today 
can play these instmments in all twelve keys. 
Some musicians play single phrases smoothly on 
the pull, then rapidly close the instmment with 
the air button, and then play another phrase on 
the pull. 

Most players of either the boerekonsertina or 
engelsekonsertina today tend to be ear players, in 
the classic Anglo fashion — there are few printed 
resources for this music. Nearly all of them add 
chords to the basic melody line, both for the 
harmony and, perhaps more importantly, for the 
rhythm. At dances held in the early days of the 
Boer Republics, the concertina was often played 


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The Anglo-German Concertina 

alone or played perhaps with only one other 
melody instrument like a fiddle or banjo; playing 
the concertina doubly (in octaves) as well as 
adding some chorded accompaniment probably 
was appreciated by the dancers to help the music 
cut through the noise of stamping feet and 
conversation. When multi-instrument bands 
began to play for larger dances in the early 
twentieth century, the concertina had the position 
of lead melody instrument, and could delegate 
some of the rhythm maintenance to the guitar. 
With the advent of more chromatic music in the 
twentieth century, octave playing has nearly 

Today's Boer concertina style is highly 
refined and polished utilizing techniques that 
have developed through many generations of 
players. Such refinement came about because of 
the emphasis placed on the concertina by the 
Boers in generations past, and these lessons were 
passed on. To recall an observer from 1900, 
quoted above: 

[T]he concertina is in use every day, and at all 
hours of the day. . . . When the Boer goes away 
on a transport journey he takes his concertina 
with him. From every waggon trekking slowly 
along the dusty road you will hear strains of this 
instrument breaking out on the quiet air, and if 
you give a backward glance, you will see the boss 
stretched out on his mattress in the tent of the 
waggon, pipe in mouth, grinding out some world- 
forgotten tune. When the waggon outspans, the 
owner will climb out, take his seat on the water- 
keg, and serenade the Kaffirs as they build the 
fire and prepare the coffee. When the night closes 
in, the transport rider will play himself to sleep. 
On the farm, too, the concertina is never idle, for 
the boys take it with them, as they go out in the 
early morning to watch the cattle feed, and again 
in the evening, when they count the stock as they 
are driven in. 

Octave playing 

Hans Bodenstein. The first Boer group to 
record. Die Vyf Vastrappers (The Five 
Vastrappers), was led by Anglo player Hans 
Bodenstein (Figure 8). A transcription of one of 


his recorded tunes with that group from the early 
1930s, entitled simply Settees (Schottische), is 
included in the transcriptions found in Chapter 
10. It is a fine example of early Boer playing, and 
is playable on a two-row C/G concertina. 

Bodenstein plays this piece in the key of C, 
using a cross-row octave technique (see Chapters 
3 and 10) that differs only in style from that of 
the many recorded Anglo players of Australia, 
mainly in the frequent use of chords. The sparse 
chords are partial and easily built, as they 
primarily consist of simple third intervals down 
from the top octave melody note. Building the 
partial chords on the right hand contrasts with the 
technique used by English players like William 
Kimber, who typically chord on the left; this 
right-hand chording imparts a continental 
European sound to the music. In the A part, the 
transcribed version represents his second time 
through the tune; in his first time through, those 
chorded notes were left out, and the playing was 
purely in octaves. Bodenstein plays in the classic 
two-row octave manner (see Chapter 3 for 
definition), moving between the C and G rows, 
playing the lower phrases on the C row and the 
higher phrases on the G row. Measures one, two, 
and the first half of three are played on the G 
row, and then it moves to the C row through 
measure eight, except for a single excursion back 
to the G row for the F# in measure five. The B 
part similarly moves between the two rows. 

The very high-pitched upper octave notes of 
the introductory two notes are not playable as 
written on a typical 30-button Jeffries-style 
Anglo keyboard, as the high F is not available 
with its octave lower G in the same bellows 
direction. This may indicate that Bodenstein 
played a Wheatstone concertina or one with a 
similar keyboard in its upper register. 

Chris Chomse. Another early player to 

extensively use the octave technique was Chris 
Chomse, who played lead concertina for Die 
Lydenburg Vastrappers. His version of the 
Noodshulp Polka was recorded in 1934, and is 
among the transcriptions included in Chapter 10. 
Chomse had a Bb/F Anglo; for the purposes of 
transcription it has been tiansposed up a note in 

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The Concertina and the Boers 

order to match the transcription to a C/G Anglo, 
the system most commonly played today. 

The Noodshulp Polka is played almost 
entirely in octaves. The tune is "crooked," as 
played — there are only fifteen bars in the A part, 
and thirty-one in the B. Like many Boer players 
in the bands of the early twentieth century, 
Chomse played with a guitar that functioned as a 
rhythm backup. With this backup he could hold 
long notes, whereas a solo player would have to 
punctuate in every interval to keep the rhythm 
going for the dancers. Chomse took full 
advantage of this guitar backup, and clearly 
didn't care about the effect of long pauses on the 
number of bars in this polka, so long as the tune 
had an even number of beats. 

This tune is arranged for a three-row system, 
and by the time of its recording the professional 
Boer players were moving beyond the old two- 
row instruments. Like Bodenstein, Chomse 
seems to have an expanded keyboard Wheatstone 
instrument, as the high F in measures eight and 
nine does not appear on a typical Jeffries-style 
Anglo keyboard. There are prominent chromatic 
notes in the second, third, and sixth measures — 
this is clearly a twentieth-century tune, or at the 
very least a twentieth-century arrangement. 
Dissonant chords in measures eleven through 
thirteen are made on the pull on the C row, using 
the puU F on the top row. 

Like most Boer tunes, there are only a few 
grace notes in this polka; these are in the B part. 
As in Australian and early Irish playing, the 
playing and rhythm of the tune were executed in 
a relatively simple manner for the purpose of 
dance. Chording is likewise simple, comprised of 
just a few third intervals, or of the dissonant 
second intervals already mentioned. 

Early-twentieth-century Irish players like 
John Kelly and Solus Lillus were quick to leave 
the octave technique, ascribing it to the previous 
generation of aging women players as if it were 
slow and ponderous. Listening to any of these 
early Boer players will disabuse anyone of that 
notion. They play briskly and lightly in a 
sophisticated style. 

Faan Harris was one of the very best of the 
players in the concertina's South African golden 

years of the 1930s. Two of his tunes are included 
in Chapter 10' s transcriptions; Soutpansberg 
Settees, a schottische, and Wals van Tant Sannie 
(Aunt Sannie' s Waltz). The Soutpansberg Settees 
is stylistically the older of the two, played in an 
octave style not too dissimilar than the previous 
tunes of Bodenstein and Chomse. The waltz, 
however, is decidedly chromatic, and represents a 
shift toward modern music that was to be taken 
up and further developed by players who 

Some of the general elements of Harris's 
playing, most of which are endemic to a majority 
of Boer players since the time of Harris, are 
summarized as follows: 

• He favors the addition of numerous rhythmic 
chords. In the Soutpansberg Settees, long 
strings of eighth notes in the melody are 
punctuated by adding chords on alternating 
notes. This is atypical of Irish and Australian 
concertina music, although somewhat similar 
to the rhythmic chorded playing of 
Englishman William Kimber. 

• Chords and partial chords are added on both 
right and left hands; English Anglo players 
since the time of Kimber typically relegate 
chords to the left hand. 

• Harris plays in octaves. In the Soutpansberg 
Settees, he does not as rigorously adhere to 
that technique as do Hans Bodenstein and 
Chris Chomse. Wals van Tant Sannie, 
however, is played mostly in octaves, and in 
some phrases Harris uses triple octave notes. 

• Harris is a two-row octave player; he 
switches from one row to the other as it fits 
the fluidity of phrasing as well as the needs 
of chording. 

• During each multiple repetition of the tune, 
Harris introduces an extensive variation of 
the melody, just as do other skilled Boer 
players (these variations are not captured on 
the transcriptions). This improvisational 
playing is much more pronounced than is 
typical in either English morris dance tunes 
or Irish concertina music, and resemble the 
level of improvisation found in Texas contest 
fiddle playing, for example. 

• A type of "vibrato" is produced by a shaking 
or quivering of the bellows on some long 
notes. This technique is especially prevalent 
in Harris's waltz tunes. This "bellows shake" 


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The Anglo-German Concertina 

is not typical in Irish and English Anglo 
concertina music. South African players will 
also occasionally wave the instrument like a 
windmill to emphasize some passages; this 
was once commonly done in Australia and in 
England . 

• There are few grace notes in the playing of 
Harris, Bodenstein and Chomse, which 
although atypical of Irish playing today is 
similar to the style of early recorded players 
in Ireland, England, and Australia, all of 
whom played primarily for dancers. 

Soutpansherg Settees, in the key of G, is 
played by Harris mostly on the C row of a C/G 
concertina, but he switches to the G row in higher 
passages — such as measures fourteen and fifteen, 
and thirty-one and thirty-two — and in measures 
with octave runs (measures sixteen through most 
of eighteen). This tune may be considered an 
example of the two-row boerekonsertina style, as 
Harris plays it wholly on the two rows of his 
concertina. Examples of cross rowing for fluidity 
in melody can be found in the last notes of 
measures one, two, and twenty-three, where the 
fingering drops down to the G row to keep a 
phrase on the pull. Because strings of eighth 
notes in the melody are alternately chorded, this 
cross-row fingering helps keep the passages all in 
one direction, facilitating the repetitive left hand 
chords. There are several other subtle cases of 
such cross rowing in the piece. Nominally a 
schottische (settees), this tune is not played with 
as many dotted eighth notes as would be the case 
in England. An emphasis on the first note of an 
eight-note pair is present, but is patchy and 
subtle. For this reason, the dots are left off of the 

The beginnings of chromatic playing 

Faan Harris's plajdng of Wals van Tant 
Sannie (its transcription is in Chapter 10) 
provides an early example of the modem 
chromatic tunes that arrived in South Africa in 
the early twentieth century, and were embraced 
by Boer players there. This waltz is a Boer 
version of the tune Shannon Waltz, which seems 
to have been first recorded by the East Texas 


Serenaders in 1926 in Dallas, Texas. The 
Serenaders learned it and a number of other 
unusual tunes from a traveling fiddle player only 
known as "Brigsley."^'' The Serenaders used a 
lead violin backed up by guitar, tenor banjo, and 
cello. This instrumentation resembles a classic 
Boer dance band of that period with the 
exception of the lead violin instead of a 
concertina. Faan Harris's version of this waltz 
was recorded in the early 1930s, only a few years 
after the piece was first recorded in Texas. How 
the tune made its way to South Africa is not 
known, but recordings of the Serenaders were 
quite popular, and such recordings of the latest 
dance music were circulated globally. As 
Wilhelm Schultz has pointed out, Boers freely 
imported sheet music and later recordings from 
abroad throughout the late nineteenth and early 
twentieth century, especially of American 
minstrel tunes, popular songs, and dance tunes 
from Europe and America. These imports were 
often given new lyrics and renamed in Afrikaans. 
For example, the American Civil War baUad 
EUie Rhee became Sarie Marais; an American 
popular song of 1879, I'll Be All Smiles Tonight 
became Die Kalfle Wals (Hgure 14); and Stephen 
Foster's Old Folks at Home became Daar ver op 
ons PlasieJ'^ The Boer kept up with new global 
trends in music throughout this period, and made 
new musical fashions their own. 

The East Texas Serenaders were particularly 
known for their bluesy rags and waltzes, and 
Faan Harris masterfully adapted this modern tune 
to his three-row Anglo. Such heavily chromatic 
twentieth-century material spelled the end of 
popularity for the diatonic Anglo-German 
concertina in much of the world, as the typical 
two-row C/G Anglo could not play most of the 
required half steps (see for example, the 
discussion accompanying the tune Waiting for 
the Robert E. Lee, Chapter 2). The situation was 
to be much different in South Africa, as 
demonstrated by this piece. By the early 1930s, 
Boer concertina players in a vibrant group of 
professional and semiprofessional dance bands 
had already upgraded to English-made, three- 
and four-row instruments, and were clearly eager 
not to be left behind by the new musical fashions. 

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Harris embraced these new chromatic touches, 
playing them with relish; the chromatic half steps 
are in measures two, five, ten, twenty- two, 
twenty-six, and twenty-seven. 

Harris employed an impressive array of rich 
chords and triple octave notes (three notes, each 
an octave apart), and used the bellows shake 
technique — albeit sparingly — on some of the 
long notes in the piece. Wals van Tant Sannie is a 
superb concertina arrangement created by a 
consummate musician in his prime. 

The Concertina and the Boers 

A Note on the Concertina in British South 
African Society 

Approximately one-third of white South 
Africans are Anglo-African, and are English 
speakers of British descent. The other two-thirds 
are primarily Afrikaans-speaking Boers. 
Although German and Anglo-German 
concertinas were vastly popular in late Victorian 
England, there is little in the way of first-hand 
documentation that indicates that many British 
colonists played the German concertina in South 
Africa. Certainly there was never a critical mass 
of players who developed a recognized style, as 
did the Boer. Because the British in South Africa 
constituted the ruling elite during the late 
nineteenth century, it may be that the working- 
class, Anglo-German concertina was considered 
to be out of step with that perceived local role. 
Somewhat more common are references to the 
English-system concertina. For example, it is 
well known that David Livingstone (1813-1873), 
the famous Scottish missionary and explorer, 
carried a Wheatstone English concertina with 
him on his travels.^^ 

Many British colonists had occasional tinges 
of homesickness, and a concertina — of either 
variety — was sometimes just the thing to soothe 
them. In an 1864 account of a hunt, a favorite 
British pastime in Africa: 

Whatever may be thought of moderate music in 
England, and I confess to my indifference to 

those a fter-dinner performances, which are 
usually out of tune, and always out of place, it is 
but right to record my gratitude for the 
concertina which one of the party had with her. 
It was a bond of union, if it was nothing else; and 
produced a harmony among us, which the mere 
fact of accidental intercourse would never have 
created. We ate, we drank, we made excursions, 
and killed game, as Englishmen always do when 
they can; and when we assembled in the evening 
we sat down and listened to the same music, and 
sang the same songs. It relieved the monotony of 
a sportsman 's conversation, made the evening 
pass socially and quickly, and taught us to forget 
the troubles and anxieties which very properly 


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The Anglo-German Concertina 

beset the adventurer, and without which he would 
cease to be a hero even to himself 7^ 

A similar scene took place in the Orange 
Free State sometime in the late 1860s. Five men, 
with a retinue of African servants, were preparing 
for a Christmas feast on the veldt. They had been 
out trading for cattle, horses, ostriches, tame 
wildebeest, and springbok: 

The camp itself was a in a state of bustle, for all 
hands were preparing for a royal Christmas 
dinner. A merry-eyed Makateese boy was 
plucking the feathers from a great pauw, and 
another was engaged at the same work on some 
handsome wild ducks; a Hottentot was skinning 
and cutting up a delicate springbok, and a 
wildebeest lay upon the ground beside him 
awaiting his intentions. The coolie cook was busy 
making bread and cakes, and we five men were 
deep in the mysteries of (making) a plum 
pudding . . . 

And then the dinner was served! The dining room 
was the pea-green veld; the ceiling was the blue 
vault of heaven, painted with scarlet flamingoes, 
white egrets, and long-tailed sacaboolas; and the 
walls were decorated with lacustrine scenery, 
herds of wild and domestic animals . . . and long 
vistas of grassy plains. The table was the ground, 
and the seats, too, were the ground, except that 
the master of ceremonies occupied an upturned 
bucket... . 

Then the Chairman on the bucket: "Gentlemen, 
charge your glasses! " The tin pannikins were 
filled with brandy and water, or gin and water . . 
. "Hats off! The Queen!" "The Queen! God bless 
her! " Song: "God Save the Queen. " Once more: 
"Charge your glasses! The Old Country! " Song: 
"Brittania Rules the Waves! " Again: "Charge 
your glasses' Absent friends! " Song: "The 
Stirrup Cup! " And then songs, stories, hunting 
yams; concertina, flute, fiddle and barrel organ; 
brandy, rum, and gin, until the boundless plain 
had long been shrouded in the solemn veil of 

night, and the twinkling of the stars upon its 
waters alone told of the existence of the lakeJ^ 

An EngUsh gentleman adventurer, traveling 
through Natal in the early 1880s, groused about 
the arrangements at the British club in 

[M]any members of the club did not seem to feel 
comfortable at dinner unless the windows were 
open enough to blow the menu off the table; nor 
was the reading room considered quite in order 
unless the windows were open at the bottom, 
instead of the top, to blow all the newspapers and 
periodicals off the table two or three times a day. 
In vain the steward replaced them, with tacit 
orders to lie still, off they were again as soon as 
he turned his back. . . . Nor did I thank Punch for 
arriving about this period with a cartoon by our 
immortal Tenni el, representing Mr. Gladstone 
with a woe-begone countenance and a 
concertina in hand, singing "Wait till the clouds 
roll by. " For the "hit" hit everybody so 
immensely that the smart young barman never 
ceased to sing the song; realizing an old line 
from Sternhold and Hopkins, "Begin and never 

Figure 9 in Chapter 2 shows the picture of Prime 

Minister Gladstone from that offending issue of 
Punch; the song was written by an Irish 
immigrant concertina player and composer in 
London named Tom Maguire, whose story may 
be found in Chapter 3. 

The concertina was apparently not of 
enduring appeal to British settlers in Africa, and 
no significant traditions of its use remain with the 
million or so settlers of British descent still in 
South Africa. It seems to have died out in British 
South Africa at the same time as it did back in 


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The Concertina and the Boers 

Concertina organizations 

The two main organizations for concertina 
players in South Africa are key resources for 
recordings and information: 

Die Tradisionele Boeremusiekklub van Suid- 
Afrika (Traditional Boer Music Club), 

Die Boeremusiekgilde (Boer Music Guild), 

South African concertina builders: 

Koot Brits: du Bruyn Street 185, Weavind Park, 
0184, Republic of South Africa; Phone: 01 1-27- 
84-744-9955; Cell number: 011-27-84-744-9955. 
Koot makes the "KB" concertina. 

Allen Green: P.O. Box 799 Mossel Bay, 6500, 
Republic of South Africa. Allen makes the 
"Olga" model. 

Danie Labuschagne: Wilhebn Street 1233, 
Booysens, Pretoria 0082, Republic of South 
Africa. Phone 01 1-27-12-379-2904 or 01 1-27- 
72-155-2696. Danie, along with colleague 
Stephan van Zyl, makes the "Boerekonsertina." 
Wessel Potgieter: 22 Bosduif Street, Kempton 
Park West 1619, Republic of South Africa. 

WilUe van Wyk: P.O.Box 1759 Rayton 1001, 
RepubUc of South Africa; phone: 011-27-12-802- 
1104. WiUie builds the "Wifra" model. 

' Herman Soyaux, 1879, West-Afrika: Leipzig, F. 
U. Broadhaus. The translation is from Peter Fryer, 

Rhythms of Resistance: African musical heritage in 
Brazil (Middletown:Weslayan University Press, 
2000), p. 159. 

^Anglo-Boer War Museum , Bloemfontein South 
Africa; online at 
^ This brief summary of South African history relies 
heavily on various entries on this subject in the 
Encyclopaedia Brittanica online and Wikipedia. 
* See discussion in Michael Oliver West, The Rise of 
an African Middle Class: Colonial Zimbabwe, 1898- 
1965 (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2002), 
pp. 25-29. 

' These references are taken from Wilhelm Schultz, 
Die Ontstaan en Ontwikkeling van Boeremusiek 
(South Africa: A.V.A. Systems, 2001), p. 142. 
^ Lucie (Lady) Duff Gordon, Letters from the Cape, 
(1869), available at several online libraries, including 
Project Gutenberg. 

^ This paragraph is paraphrased from Jan Bouws, 
Solank Daar Mustek Is . . . , Mustek en Musiekmakers 
in Suid-Afrika A652-\9%2 (Cape Town:Tafelburg, 
1982), pp. 81-82. 

^ J. L. K. Human, Mustek in die Oranje-l rystaat vanaf 
1850 tot aan die begin van die Anglo-Boereoorlog, p. 
109. As quoted by Wilhelm Schultz, Die Ontstaan en 
Ontwikkehng (A.V.A. Systems, 2001), p. 55. 
' Miss Russell, 'The Republics of South Africa," 
Journal of the American Geographical Society of New 
York (December 22, 1876), pp. 235-251. 

Frederick Boyle, To the Cape for Diamonds: A 
Story of Digging Experiences in South Africa 
(London; Chapman and Hall, 1873), p. 217. 
" Sir William F. Butler,r/ze Life of Sir George 
Pomeroy-Colley (1835-1881) (London: John Murray, 
1899), p. 132. 

Marjory Kennedy, David Kennedy, the Scottish 
Singer; Reminiscences of his Life and Work (London: 
Alfred Gardiner, 1887), p. 285. 

Charles du Val, With a Show Through Southern 
Africa (London: Tisley Brothers, 1 882), pp. 111-112. 
' Carl Jeppe, The Kaleidoscopic Transvaal (London: 
Chapman and Hall, 1906). 
" The Westminster Review, vol. 156 (London: J. 
Chapman, 1901), p. 487. 

Francis High de Souza, A Question of Treason 
(Soweto: Kiaat Creations, 2004), p. 20. 

"Life in South Africa," Otago Witness (New 
Zealand), October 26, 1888, p. 31. 


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The Anglo-German Concertina 

"Boers great dancers," Omaha Daily Bee 
(Nebraska), December 14, 1899, p. 4. 

Beatrice M. Hicks, The Cape as I Found It 
(London: Elliot Stock, 1900), p. 129. 

Sean Minnie, personal communication to the author, 

^' Wilhelm Schultz, personal communication to the 
author, 2009. 

Zak van der Vyver, personal communication to the 
author, 2009. 

Gordon Le Seur, Cecil Rhodes, The Man and His 
Work (New York: McBride, Nast & Company, 1914), 
pp. 157-158. 

"The Concertina of the Boer," Des Moines Daily 
NeM's (Iowa), June 3, 1 90 1 ; "The Boer National 
Instrument," The Mail (Hagerstown, Maryland), 
October 26, 1900; "The Boer concertina," Taranaki 
//eraW (New Zealand), October 20, 1900. 

"The Musical Boer," Hampshire Telegraph and 
Naval Chronicle (Portsmouth, England), July 14, 

"Echoes of the Month," The Musical Herald, July 
1900, p. 210. 

John Black Atkins, The Rehef of Ladysmith 
(London: Methuen and Co. 1900), pp. 149-150. 

Thomas Pakenham, The Boer War (New York: 
Random House, 1979). Thanks to Daniel Hersch for 
the reference. 

F. D. Baillie, Mafeking, A Diary of the Siege 
(Westminster: Archibald Constable & Company, 
1900), p. 177. 

^ Donald Akenson, An Irish History of Civilization 
(Canada: McGill-Queen's Press, 2005), p. 288. 
^' Paula Krebs, Gender, Race and the Writing of 
Empire: Public Discourse and the Boer War 
(Cambridge University Press, 2004), p. 22. 

"Rehef of Mafeking," Brooklyn Daily Eagle (New 
York), May 20, 1900. 

John Gooch, The Boer War: Direction, Experience 
and Image (Routledge, 2000), p. 
^ An English Teacher, "A Farm School in the 
Transvaal," The Independent Review , vol. 5, February 
- April (London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1905), p. 218. 

"Boer Courtship," The Otago Witness (New 
Zealand), November 6, 1907. 

X. C, Everyday Life in Cape Colony, In Time of 
Peace (London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1902), pp. 63-64. 
^'^ "Lioness Enjoys Music," The Hopewell Herald 
(U.S.), September 27, 1933, p. 6. 

Wilhelm Schultz, Die Ontstaan en Ontwikkeling 
(A.V.A. Systems, South Africa, 2001), p. xii. 

Thomas J. Larson, The Great Adventure: The 
University of California Southern Africa Expedition of 
1947-1948 (Lincoln: iUniverse, 2004), pp. 75-76. 



Ibid., Chapter 11. 

This section borrows heavily from the writing and 
research of Sean Minnie, Boer danse, website of the 
Traditional Boer Music Club (2005), 

Wilhelm Schultz, Die Ontstaan en Ontwikkeling, p. 

'^^ Wilhelm Schultz, Die Ontstaan en Ontwikkeling, p. 
Ibid., p. 113. 

Sean Miimie, personal communication to the author, 

Kalie van der Jager, personal communication to the 

author, 2009. 

'^^ Wilhelm Shultz, Die Ontstaan en Ontwikkeling, p. 

G. H. van Rooyen, "Voortrekkervermaak en 
Feestelikhede," Tydsdrif vir Volkskunde en Volkstaal, 
V. XXI (1965), pp. 35-45. Also see Wilhelm Schultz, 
Die Ontstaan en Ont^vikkeling, p. 115. 

Alex van Heerden, Vastrap (2008), 

Zak van der Vyver, personal communication to the 
author, 2009. 

Lawrence Green, The Land of Afternoon (Howard 
Timmons, South Africa, 1949), p. 167; as quoted by 
Wilhelm Schultz, Die Ontstaan en Ontwikkeling, p. 

"^^ Sean Minnie, personal communication to the author, 

"""^ Kalie de Jager, personal website at This site also 
includes an extensive listing of CDs of Boer 
concertina players for sale. For those with few skills at 
Afrikaans, an online Afrikaans to English translator 
can be found at, at least at 
the time of this writing. 

Piet Besser, Tradisionele Boeremusiek: 'n 
Gedenkalbum: Tradisionele Boermusiek Klub of 
South Africa, pp. 59-62. As quoted by Wilhelm 
Schultz, Die Ontstaan en Ontwikkeling (A.V.A. 
Systems, 2001), p. v. 


Ibid., p. vii. 
Website of the Traditional Boer Music Club, The text was summarized 


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The Concertina and the Boers 

from Wilhelm Schultz, Die Ontstaan en Ontwikkeling, 
p. 194. 

See, and 

^ Wilhelm Schultz, Die Ontstaan en Ontwikkeling, p. 

Sheila Patterson, The Last Trek: A Study of the Boer 
People and the Afrikaner Nation (Routledge, 2004), 
^j). 257-258. 

Wilhelm Schultz, personal communication to the 
author, 2009. 

Zak van der Vyver, personal communication to the 
author, 2009. 

^ Kalie de Jager, personal website at Also see Sean 
Minnie, personal communication to the author, 2009. 

Anglo International (CD), Alan Day and Graham 
Bradshaw, producers, Folk Sound Records, FSCD 70, 

^ See and 

Henry Birchenough, Report on the Present Position 
and Future Prospects of British Trade in South Africa 
(London: His Majesty's Stationery Office, 1903), p. 

Sean Minnie, personal communication to the author, 

Mark Davies, in a posting of May 14, 2001 included 
in Bob Gaskins, Wheatstone Anglos, numbers 
50, 000+ , 
™ Bob Gaskins, Wheatstone Anglos, numbers 
50, 000+ , 
^' Sean Minnie, Instrument vervaardigers, op. cit. 
Also see post by Flip Delport at the Forum of, in the thread entitled 
"South African Concertinas," dated October 17, 2004. 

Zak van der Vyver, personal communication to the 
author, 2009. 

''^ Keith Chandler, "The East Coast Serenaders," 
extended notes to document release: Musical 
Traditions, article MT020 (1998), 

Wilhelm Schultz, Die Ontstaan en Ontwikkeling 
(A.V.A. Systems, 2001), pp. 84-93. 

Percy A. Scholes, The Oxford Companion to Music, 
Ninth ed. (London, New York, Toronto: Oxford 
University Press, 1955)., p. 870. 

Charles Hamilton, Sketches of Life and Sport in 
South-eastern Africa (London: Chapman and Hall, 
1870), pp. 131-132. 

" George Lacy, Pictures of Travel, Sport, and 
Adventure (London: C. Arthur Pearson Limited, 
1899), pp. 355-359. 

J. J. Aubertin, Six Months in Cape Colony and 
Natal, and One Month in Tenerife and Madeira 
(London: Kegan Paul, Trench & Co., 1886), p. 175. 


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Chapter 6. The Concertina in Africa 

/ enjoy travelling the way Ranoke Sibabule does. He is my favorite concertina player. He travels far and 
wide on foot with his concertina as his only companion. He has travelled five thousand miles across the 
face of South Africa to make music here and there, and his feet are still good enough for another ten 
thousand. It is not the distances that make him want to go. It is the music, his concertina that put him in 
touch with God as he walks across the rugged face of the earth. He says God always meets him in the 
open veld an ' tells him all is right with the world, but the people in it not so. He says it 's better to travel 
this way, alone with his concertina, 'cause sitting in a plane nex ' to someone you don 't know might give 
you a pain in the neck. 

— Todd MatshiMza, With the Lid Off: South African Insights from Home and Abroad 

Introduction and Background 
A mixture of cultures 

The German concertina was used by an 
astonishing array of ethnic groups in sub-Saharan 
Africa from the late nineteenth through the 
twentieth centuries. Being cheap and 
transportable, the concertina was a much-coveted 
instrument in many parts of Africa, and in some 
cultures that playing survived until quite recently. 
In this chapter, the concertina's use by 
indigenous African and mixed-race Creole ethnic 
groups in sub-Saharan Africa will be explored. 
Its use in South African Boer culture is detailed 
in Chapter 5. 

Besides Dutch and British colonists, three 
broad groups of people used the concertina in 
Africa. First were mixed-race "Creole" ethnic 
groups who lived at early points of colonial 
contact, especially in Cape Town — the so-called 
"Cape Coloured" — ^but also in other coastal areas 
like Angola and the Cape Verde Islands of West 
Africa. These groups used concertinas primarily 
for European-style dances within their 
communities, and Creole musicians were also 
commonly hired as musicians for parties held by 
white colonials. A second group consisted of 
indigenous African ethnic groups who lived 
separately from white communities, but at the 
fringes of European colonies. This group 
includes, among others, the Khoi, Zulu, Sotho, 

and Xhosa in South Africa and some ethnic 
groups in Madagascar. The German concertina 
was adopted by each of tiiese groups, but on each 
group's own cultural terms — it was typically 
used as an innovative means of interpreting 
indigenous African music rather than to provide 
accompaniment for the quite different musical 
dances of the Europeans. A third group consists 
of ethnic groups living in remote areas such as 
central and parts of eastern Africa, where 
European cultural influence was less pervasive. 
Although the concertina was used in the late 
nineteenth century to a varying extent by these 
more remote peoples, its usage died quickly after 
the peak of the colonial period had passed, and it 
left few cultural traces. 

The second group is of particular interest, as 
they invented ways of playing the instrument that 
are unique relative to those of all other concertina 
users around the world. Where musicians of 
European ancestry will typically see in the 
concertina a vehicle for intricate melodies, many 
indigenous African musicians saw the same box 
of buttons and bellows as an instrument for 
percussion and harmonies. Unlike the indigenous 
Maori of New Zealand, or the Inuit and other 
native groups of northern North America, 
African musicians in this group typically did not 
pick up the nineteenth-century dance rhythms 
and melodies of the colonial Europeans (e.g., the 
schottisches, polkas, waltzes, and such that were 
all the rage throughout the western world at that 


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The Anglo-German Concertina 

time), but preferred instead to adapt the German 
concertina to their own musical culture. 

With the arrival of commercial recordings of 
global popular music in the middle-to-late 
twentieth century, new African musical forms 
developed that selectively incorporated elements 
of European and American music. These styles 
include "highlife" music in West Africa, South 
African township jive, and Zulu maskanda. 
Under the ever-increasing onslaught of western 
popular music in the late twentieth century, 
however, the use of the concertina in Africa has 
faded, just as it did in most other parts of the 
world a half century or more earUer. 

A note on colonial-era racial terminology 

Repeating a note from Chapter 5 on racial 
terminology in historical documents, several of 
the firsthand period accounts quoted below — 
most of which were written by white observers 
during the colonial era — make use of terms 
which are now considered racist and offensive to 
one degree or another. That was not necessarily 
the intent of the writers of those extracts 
(notwithstanding the overall environment of 
European subjugation of African people during 
the colonial era), and is certainly not so of this 
writer. The usual nineteenth-century colonial 
Dutch and British descriptive term for an 
indigenous black African was "Kaffir." Now 
considered highly pejorative, in most of the 
nineteenth century it was a neutral term for black 
African people, and was employed across the 
board by whites, including not only soldiers and 
administrators but missionaries and scholars. It 
was the first of a series of generic terms used by 
Europeans for black Africans, and was later 
displaced in turn by "native" and then by "Bantu" 
before the simple term "African" gained general 
acceptance among both black and white Africans 
in the twentieth century. "Kaffir" gained its 
modern, ugly connotation during the exploitation 
of African miners in South Africa at the close of 
the nineteenth century.' The ancient Khoi people 
of the Cape region — linguistically and racially 
distinct from peoples of Bantu origin — were 
called "Hottentots" by early European settlers. 

and the term was used throughout the nineteenth 
century, usually without malice. The term was 
derived from sounds made in the Khoisan 
language; in modern Africa it is now considered 
an offensive term. In the Cape Town area, the 
term "Cape Coloured" is still used in post- 
Apartheid South Africa for the diverse mixed- 
race culture of that city and its environs (see 
below), and is considered to be an acceptable 
usage in modern South Africa. The widespread 
colonial term "Cape boy" is of course pejorative 
today. The colonial custom of calling grown 
Africans as "boys" and "girls" was a 
thoughtlessly dehumanizing practice that is 
thankfully gone. These terms have been left in 
the original historical accounts. 


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The Concertina in Africa 

The Concertina and Cape Creole People 

In the early days of the Cape Colony, the 
Dutch East India Company imported slaves from 
Madagascar, India, Mozambique, Malaysia, and 
Indonesia (these latter two were frequently called 
"Malays"). After gaining Umited freedom under 
British administration in 1833, these ex-slaves 
began to mix and intermarry with working-class 
Europeans (including Dutch, Portuguese, 
Germans, and British), as well as with nearby 
Khoi and Xhosa people (of whom more below). 
The Creole Dutch Afrikaans language that 
developed here reflected this high degree of 
cultural mixing at the Cape. 

Consequent to this racial admixture, a highly 
diverse Creole culture developed in late- 
nineteenth-century Cape Town, which had a very 
liberal social situation for its time. The so-called 
"Cape Coloured" Hved alongside their white 
Dutch and English overseers, but at a much 
reduced social station. As in other great Creole 
cities (certainly New Orleans is an example), the 
musical result of the mix of cultures was rich 
indeed. Slaves and, later, free Creole musicians 
learned European dance repertoires as they 
played for European social events, but added bits 
of their own cultures and personae. From 
Englishwoman Lucie (Lady) Duff 
Gordon's account ca. 1862: 

The difficulty of music for the ball 
was solved by the arrival of two 
Malay bricklayers to build a new 
parsonage, and I heard with my 
own ears the proof of what I had 
been told as to their extraordinary 
musical gifts. . . . Presently in 
walked a yellow Malay, with a blue 
cotton handkerchief on his head, 
and a half-breed of negro blood . . 
.with a red handkerchief and 
holding a rough tambourine. The 
handsome yellow man took the 
concertina . . . and the touch of his 
dainty fingers transformed it to 
harmony. He played dances with a 
precision and feeling quite 

unequalled, except by Strauss 's band, and a 
variety which seemed endless. I asked him if he 
could read music, at which he laughed heartily, 
and said, music came into the ears, not the eyes. 
He had picked it all up from the bands in 
Capetown, or elsewhere.^ 

Figure 1 shows just such a mixed-race 
musical group, from a nineteenth-century 
drawing by South African artist Heinrich 
Egersdorfer. The musical skills of the Cape 
Malays were also noticed by Scottish singer 
David Kennedy on his visit to Cape Town in 

We gave eleven concerts in the Mutual Hall, 
the largest hall in Cape Town. . . .We had a good 
many Malays amongst our auditors, these people 
being very musical. In the evenings you hear 
their part songs, some of the fellows singing at 
their open windows, and now and again a string 
of them extending across the broad street and 
shouting ballads to the accompaniment of guitar 
and concertina. They have very quick ears, and 
latest success of the concert-room being 
reproduced immediately in the streets of the 
Malay quarter.' 

the concertina player. The drawing is by South African artist Heinrich 
Egersdorfer (1853-1915). 


The Anglo-German Concertina 

The singing tradition of the Cape Malays 
that Kennedy heard is today called 
nederlandslied, clearly a word of Dutch origin. 
The Cape Malays continued to play the 
concertina at least until 1903, when visitor Maud 
Walton "wrote of watching a picnic by Malays 
on Camps Bay beach where there was dancing to 
concertinas in which everyone joined in — even 
the little children. So colourful were their picnics 
and their merry-making that the Europeans took 
as much pleasure in watching them as they made 
pleasure themselves . . . Never was there 
disturbance of any kind, and man, woman and 
child, all enjoyed the day.""* 

Colonial overlords, British and Dutch alike, 
spoke in a generic but condescending way of 
male Cape Coloureds as the "Cape boy," and 
exploited them for cheap labor, as for example in 
British Imperial Yeomanry Hospitals during the 
Boer War (Figure 2). Accounts of those hospitals 
contain clues to the popularity of the German 
concertina within this group: 

Figure 2. A group of Cape Coloured workers for the British army 
hospitals, 1901. Every person in this group was reportedly able to 
the German concertina. From The Countess Howe, 1902, The Imp 
Yeomanry Hospitals in South Africa, 1901-1902. 

upon his white brethren. After camping the boys 
would congregate round the fire and one would 
start the entertainment by manipulating his 
instrument utterly regardless of tune; then with 
much self-denial and good-fellowship the 
implement of torture was passed round until, the 
circle being completed, it was returned to its 
owner who, after a second performance, handed 
it on again; and so the vicious cycle was 
repeated until the concert was stopped by 
superior authority. The horrible discordance and 
its deadly monotony were in course of time in 
danger of producing serious mental 
consequences to one of us who, in self-defense, 
had all the concertinas seized on camping and 
impounded until camp was struck the next day. ^ 

Although one might dismiss the 
unsympathetic description of the music and the 
musicians in this account as simple racism, 
consider the writer, Georgiana Curzon, the 
Howe. A member of the British 
aristocracy, she treated the playing 
of the German concertina here no 
differently than her counterparts in 
England did their own musicians on 
the German concertina at that time 
(see "Class Tensions" in Chapter 2). 

Cape Coloured musicians were 
among the first to hear each new 
dance craze as it arrived and was 
played by the military bands. They 
then sought to make each new dance 
tune their own, the better to be 
employable by groups like the 
English, Cape Dutch, and Boers. An 
1899 Boer dance was described in 
the previous chapter; here is a small 
snippet from that longer description: 



Take him all round the "boy " is not a pleasant 
companion,.... and his passion for music (!) is apt 
to jar upon the strongest nerves. His favourite 
instruments, the acquisition of which seems to be 
his chief ambition, are a mouth organ and a 
concertina. The possession of a concertina seems 
to afford him as much pleasure as it inflicts pain 

The Boers are inordinately fond of 
dancing, reports a London paper. On the 
smallest pretext, or none at all, they will organize 
what they call a "dance-ball-part. " . . . The 
dancing begins at five in the afternoon to the 
music of a concertina played by a "Cape boy, " 
which is to say a half colored man. * 


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The Concertina in Africa 

Novelist J. R. Couper wrote about the 
human stories that transpired during the 
development of diamond mines in the Kimberley 
region. Mixed Humanity, published in Natal in 
1 892, refers to a dance where both the musicians 
and those on the dance floor were of mixed 

Underneath the stage in the place set aside for 
the orchestra, and facing outwards, was a band 
consisting of five men of various shades of 
colour. Their musical instruments were two 
squeaking fiddles, two guitars, and a loud-toned 
concertina. The body of the hall was occupied by 
about thirty couples dancing a set of quadrilles. 
The ladies, like the bandmen, were of all colours, 
from the delicate complexion of the Colonial girl 
to the coal-black of the Zulu. There were but few 
whites amongst them. . . . They were gaudily 
attired in ill-fitting dresses. '' 

In 1899 a British military advisor observed a 
rival Boer "commando" group up close, and 

noticed a mixed-race band with the Boer group. 
He related that among all the Boer military chiefs 
there was: 

[A ] German captain, an ex-officer . . . of the 
Prussian Guard, who had come out to organize 
the artillery for them; a cunous character, with a 
wonderful capacity for drink, who . . . was 
especially proud of his band, consisting of two 
fiddles, a concertina, and a guitar — an 
unfortunate family of wandering half-breed 
musicians, who were playing their way through 
the Transvaal, when by happy inspiration they 
were "commandeered" and sent off with the 
expedition. In the evening the captain gave us a 
small entertainment in his tent — whist and 
music. ^ 

This mixed-race band, with concertina, was 
very likely from the Cape. Figure 3 shows a 
drawing of a similar mixed-race group of Cape 
Colony street musicians from the late nineteenth 
century; one is playing a German concertina. 

Figure 3. Cape Coloured street band with concertina. Cape Town. Drawing by 
Heinrich Egersdorfer, from the South African Illustrated News of December 5, 1895. 


The Anglo-German Concertina 

Figure 4. Mixed-race Salvation Army street parade with concertina, Cape Colony, nineteenth century. The drawing is by 
Heinrich Egersdorfer. 

Playing music in Cape Town was often a 
competitive undertaking, and at times involved 
contests among concertina players. In 1874 "a 
concertina competition for a gold wristwatch was 
held in the garden of the Good Hope Lodge."' A 
century later, similar concertina competitions 
were still held among migrant Zulu players in 

A Scottish visitor in the 1880s described 
Cape Coloured people enjoying themselves at 
New Year's festival time. He encountered them 
walking back to Cape Town from the strand, 
where they had "imbibed freely, and are 
quarreling, drinking, singing, and shouting rough 
jests . . . dancing in the grass to the music of an 
old concertina, or the strains of some ditty sung 
by themselves . . . they are celebrating their 
emancipation from slavery or serfdom some half- 
a-century ago."" 

The Salvation Army, seemingly present at 
every English-speaking outpost around the world 

at this time, recruited among the Cape Coloured 
population, which constituted much of the 
working class of the city. An image from 1884, 
drawn by Heinrich Egersdorfer, shows a 
Salvation Army procession comprised of a 
mixed-race band with brass instruments, a 
concertina, tambourines, flags, and flourished 
umbrellas, and led by a local Army officer 
(Figure 4). Army street marches, always 
boisterous in places like London or Liverpool, 
took on a festive air when celebrated by the Cape 
Coloured — the scene approaches the festivity of a 
modern day New Orleans jazz funeral. Everyone 
in this image, performers and onlookers alike, 
appears to be having a fine time.'" 

In 1848 the American blackface minstrel 
group The Celebrated Ethiopian Serenaders 
visited Cape Town during their world tour (see 
Chapter 2 for a discussion of their debut in 
London). The minstrel shows, a global 
phenomenon in the middle and late nineteenth 


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The Concertina in Africa 

century, included blackface performers and 
musicians who imitated and parodied African- 
American slaves. The minstrel shows were a 
smash hit in the Cape Colony throughout the next 
several decades, and the minstrel musical 
repertoire was eagerly absorbed by white, black, 
and Cape Creole musical groups alike. The 
Christy Minstrels, also from America, were 
especially popular, and like everywhere else, the 
term "Christy Minstrel" became used generically 
for any local, homegrown minstrel band. The use 
of the banjo in Afrikaans (Boer) music dates 
from the appearance of these minstrel visitors; 
the banjo, brought to America from West Africa 
by slaves, was returned to Africa and widely 
adopted by Cape Creole and white colonial 
groups as a result of the minstrel shows. 

It may seem strange that a mixed-race 
Creole culture, not far removed from slavery 
themselves, could embrace the parodies of 
enslaved blacks in America. The shows were 
largely good-natured, fast moving, and highly 
entertaining however, and as a recent study by 
Denis Martin made clear, "minstrel shows 
brought to South Africa new music, new songs, 
new dance steps and an original way of enacting 
racial relations."'"* With time, the minstrel music 
and its blackface performers became an iconic 
part of Cape Town city life, so much so that a 
New Year "Coon Carnival" is celebrated there to 
the present day. When Cape Creoles adopted that 
title, they probably did not realize the highly 
offensive nature of that term to the ears of 
African- Americans. The annual carnival takes 
place in the early morning hours in Cape Town. 
A carnival procession includes blackface 
performers and paraders of all racial types. 
Nagtroep (night troups) sing Malay 
nederlandsliedere and other Afrikaans songs at 
selected homes and in the streets. This festival 
was well underway in 1936, when a 
correspondent for the Irish Times wrote: 

Organized without any assistance from the white 
population by various negro societies, the ... 
festival affords an opportunity for the "darkies " 
to demonstrate their musical and histrionic 
abilities. For months before the great day troupes 

are formed in each district, each of them clad in 
a gaudy and distinctive garb reminiscent of 
"Christy 's Minstrels. " Almost every member 
plays some musical instrument, generally a banjo 
or concertina, and assiduous practice produces 
some excellent bands.''' 

That the German and Anglo-German 
concertina found a ready place in Cape Town 
"Christy Minstrel" knockoff bands is fitting, 
given its common appearance in English and 
American minstrel groups in the nineteenth 
century (see Chapters 2 and 9). A recent book by 
Denis Martin, Coon Carnival, follows both the 
history and present-day festivities of this vibrant 
annual Cape Town event. 

Concertina playing seems to have died out 
among the Cape Coloured in Cape Town in 
recent years, however, as western jazz, blues, and 
rock 'n' roll each made their entry. The story of 
current Cape Town creole jazz musician Robbie 
Jansen may be typical: born there in 1949, his 
first instruments were harmonica and concertina, 
but as he grew into a professional musician he 
switched to guitar and then saxophone.'^ 


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The Concertina and African Groups in 
the Cape Region 

Use of the concertina grew rapidly among 

African peoples all over South Africa. By 1902, 
when the instrument had been in general use for 
nearly a half century, a British trade group 
observed that "the Germans . . . monopolise the 
trade in concertinas, which are largely sold to 
natives."'^ Li that year, South Africa imported a 
total of 97,315 musical instruments from 
Germany. It is reasonable to assume that at least 
one-third of these (perhaps thirty thousand per 
year) were concertinas, the major instrument that 
the Germans produced at that time; others would 
have included button accordions, harmonicas, 
and pianos. German and Italian concertinas are 
still being imported today, albeit in smaller 

Among the groups using these instruments 
were the Khoi and the Xhosa. European influence 
was felt most by those groups, as they lived 
immediately adjacent to the settlements of the 
early Cape Colony. 

The Khoi 

Upon the founding of the Cape Colony by 
the Dutch in 1652, the commercial enterprises 
and settlers of Cape Town displaced indigenous 
peoples of the Cape region from their land. The 
Khoi (who were descriptively called "Hottentots" 
by the colonial Dutch and English) are an ancient 
culture with a language distinguished by clicking 
sounds, and a complexion decidedly more yellow 
than black; they traditionally lived as pastoral 
herders in the western Cape. The Dutch East 
India Company established European farms deep 
in Khoi territory, and the Khoi's numbers were 
decimated in the eighteenth century by smallpox 
brought by the Europeans. Their pastoral social 
structure collapsed as a result, and many 
survivors were exploited as a source of labor for 
the Colony. In the late nineteenth century it was 
considered tj^ical for the Khoi to play the 
concertina, as described in this account of Ufe in 
the Cape Colony in the 1890s: 

The other side of the tobacco lands, higher up the 
river, there was another hartebeeste house [a 
traditional skin-covered low hut framed with 
branches], with other Hottentots, squalid and 
poor. . . . Old Boy was . . . very small and 
shrivelled. He always had a black handkerchief 
bandaged tight around his head, with an old felt 
hat squashed to the top. His wife was little and 
old too, and they both used to sit on the ground 
outside their hut and watch the chickens run 
around them. . . . Sometimes we would be 
walking past at dusk, and then the whole family 
would be inside, and we would bend down and 
look in the door and say "Good evening. " 
Perhaps one of the men would be playing on the 
concertina — the music of the Hottentots — and the 
rest would listen, while the children looked round 

An account of a British hunt, ca. 1890 
illustrates the popularity of the concertina with 
the Khoi: 

By dusk everything was across [the river], and 
we were all "dog-tired. " Nevertheless by the 
camp fire we talked far into the night . . . The 
Hottentots and Kaffirs were also happy, as we 
could plainly hear, their fire being only a few 
yards away; and they amused themselves with a 
concertina and dancing, until Coetzee told them 
it was sleeping time, as we had plenty of work to 
do on the morrow.'^ 

An account by a British prospector in 
neighboring German Southwest Africa (now 
Namibia) in 1912 leaves us another description 
of Khoi players. The prospector was working in 
an extremely remote area, and was congratulating 
himself on the peaceful solitude of it all: 

Then I heard a concertina!. . . and I wondered if 

the sun had been too much for me. A concertina! 
Here, in the most solitary spot imaginable! It 
appeared sheer lunacy, but there was no doubt 
about it, and I got up and cleared back to camp, 
prepared for any old thing. Ransom was sitting 
by the fire, smoking, and before him were 
capering two little stark naked Hottentot boys . . . 


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dancing the so-called "baboon dance " of the 

But the musician! He was away ahead of the 
gaudiest . . . [that] I had ever seen! On his head 
was a German uniform "smasher" hat, about 
three sizes too large for him, and covered with 
sweeping ostrich plumes. . . . Oh! He was a 
peach, and he knew it. His concertina was also 
German, spangled beyond belief, and quite new. 
He only used about three notes of the 
considerable number there appeared to be on it. . 
. . He . . . lead us to believe that he had been 
working in German Southwest Africa some 
months, and had now decided to retire and get 
married. We wondered where the lady was, and 
gave him some tabaki and wished him luck, and 
he cleared off. But we had scarcely got to sleep 
when that infernal concertina started again, and 
there was "His Nibs" back again, with the two 
"coryphees " capering away for all they were 
worth, and evidently prepared to keep it up all 
night. The more tabaki I gave them, the more 
energetic they became; the more I swore, the 
more they seemed to think I appreciated their 
efforts . . . 

In the morning, the musician turned up with a tin 
full of goat 's milk, and informed me that he knew 
a magnificent copper-mine close to hand, and 
wanted us to pay him for showing it. As he 
pointed in the direction we were going, we took 
him along, and, as I expected, he led us to an 
outcrop that we had pegged on our previous visit. 
He then danced about six steps, played a pcean of 
joy on his infernal concertina, grinned from ear 
to ear, and held out his hand. " 'Undred pounds, " 
said he. "Duizand pond, Zwanzig mark' " He got 
it. We gave him a plug of tobacco, and a little tea 
for his bride, and he stood on a peak and played 
us out of site. He was certainly the most cheerful 
and original Christy Minstrel I ever met in a wild 
state, and I remember him with gratitude.^" 

Many surviving Khoi intermarried with 
members of the Bushmen tribe of the region to 
the northwest of the Cape, in modern Namibia. 
Some in this group continued to play the 

concertina well into the mid-twentieth century. 
Lennox van Onselen recorded stories of the last 
of the nomadic Dutch herders (Trekboer) in the 
wild desert areas of the northwest Cape. The 
Trekboer, who were thinly scattered all over the 
desert, would get together now and then for 
dances. He described one of them on the 
Knersvlakte plain in the 1950s, the music for 
which was provided by a band of native 
Khoi/Bushmen. The party was at a simple house; 
mutton was roasting on the fire outside. People 
arrived by donkey carts from across the desert. 
All the furniture was carried out of the big room 
of the house and placed outside, leaving only a 
hurricane lamp and two stools within. The host 

had a large supply of "barbed wire" ^the local 

name for a potent homemade brew: 

"We 're warming up the band, " he said in a high- 
pitched voice. I now saw that the orchestra had 
arrived and were being attuned with "barbed 
wire " to the right pitch of revelry. 

The three-piece ensemble consisted of coloured 
men of the usual Hottentot-Bushman admixture. 
They staggered from the table and made their 
way into the crowded room. They took up their 
positions in a comer of the room. They sat on 
their haunches and held their instruments before 
them with great dignity. The instruments were a 
ramkie [a two-stringed Khoi lute], a guitar, and 
a battered concertina. Everybody now crowded 
into the room. The small room strained at the 
seams . . . 

I do not know what I had expected. Certainly not 
the hellish cacophony of sound; the unearthly 
screeching and wailing that shattered my 
composure and made me quiver like a leaf in a 
high wind . . . The ramkie has a musical range of 
only two notes . . . his initial plink-plink whets the 
appetite hut it is the variations on the theme of 
plink-plink-plank-plank that sets the audience 
back on their heels and unleashes the animal in 
them. In conjunction with a guitar that should 
have been strangled whilst it was still a banjo, a 
concertina that sounded like asthma on the low 
notes and a scalded cat on the high ones, the 


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The Anglo-German Concertina 

combined result was what we sinners deserve but 
are often spared by divine intervention.'^^ 

Regardless of the musical tastes of the city 
visitor, the rural Trekboers danced happily and 
wildly to this music all night long. 

It is a great pity that no Khoi concertina 
music has been recorded, or at least so it appears. 
Tragically, there are very few Khoi and their 
close relatives, the hunter-gatherer San 
(Bushmen), left in South Africa today. The years 
of European expropriation of their lands, the 
ravaging effects of European diseases, and the 
resulting collapse of Khoi social structure have 
left these gentle, unassuming people at the fringe. 

The Xhosa 

As the German concertina became generally 
available and inexpensive in the late 1850s and 
1 860s, some African groups learned of it through 

the mixed-race culture at Cape Town, and others 
further afield learned of it through the work of 
EngHsh missionaries. In Peelton, near New 
London in the eastern Cape where the Xhosa 
tribe was being displaced by aggressive white 
settlement, a missionary had organized a school 
in 1868: 

A fter tea Mr. B , who is our senior missionary 

and like a father among old and young, joined in 
some merry games with the children. Then they 
were marched round again, and sang some sweet 
pieces, which they can do well, for the natives 
have good voices, and some of them have also a 
good ear for music. We had a concertina, which 
one of the young men plays beautifully; and with 
this they were charmed. In the absence of a better 
instrument, it did good service, though I fancy I 
see some of the friends smiling at our poor 
musical concerts. 

Figure 5. A missionary visits an African village, probably ca. 1890s, location not known. Note the man holding a German 
concertina, to the left of the white-robed missionary. From the collection of Jared Snyder. 


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The Concertina in Africa 

The Xhosa readily picked up concertina 
playing. A tourist's guide to South Africa of 
about 1905 describes a visit to a Xhosa kraal near 
King William's Town in the eastern Cape. 
Written in the well-intended but condescending 
manner of colonial Europeans, it tells us that both 
the observer and the observed could play the 

There was music in the kraal, and we stepped up 
to see and listen. It was a mixed little lot of 
Kaffirs and Hottentots almost entranced by a tall 
Kaffir drawing out and in an old concertina, and 
eliciting a mournful succession of sounds with 
the maximum of dreariness and the minimum of 
harmony, yet the effect was most exciting. They 
clapped their hands . . . with delight. Some made 
movements imitating the sound of the music, and 
they all broke forth into special outbursts of 
feeling in the shape of Kaffir applause. Then we 
took the instrument and gave them a sprightly 
imitation of the bagpipes. First a great silence 
reigned, the silence of delighted astonishment. 
Then their applause broke out in shoutings and 
jumpings and encores to the echo. It has been 
said that the Kaffirs are untalented. It is not true, 
for they love music passionately, and we venture 
to sciy herein is a sign of soul capable of 

During the time of colonial expansion the 
Xhosa lost land to both the Cape Colony 
European settlers on their western periphery and 
to the burgeoning Zulus on the east. Many Xhosa 
became homeless as a result, and they became 
another source of low-paid migrant labor for the 
Colony. Many of them became mineworkers 
after the discoveries of diamonds at Kimberley 
and of gold near Johannesburg, and some rose to 
greater heights — such famous personages of 
today as Nelson Mandela and Bishop Desmond 
Tutu are from the Xhosa tribe. Like many Zulu 
(see below), Xhosa migrant workers had long 
treks of many miles to their jobs in the diamond 
and gold mines. Many of these migrant workers 
played the concertina after work as they 
contemplated their long absences from loved 
ones, and they brought the concertina home with 

them to their original tribal areas when they 
could. The Mpondo subgroup of the Xhosa was 
especially taken with the concertina, as noted by 
modern ethnomusicologist David Coplan (2005): 

(Mpondo) developed an affinity for the 
concertina. New concertina dances integrated 
rhythms and steps developed by migrants in 
urban areas into a framework of traditional 
dances. . . . Mpondo players depended more on 
European and Cape Coloured folk rhythms and 
melodies than [did] the Sotho, though the latter 
were by no means immune to Afrikaans vastrap 
rhythms. Cape Melodies, and the "three-chord 

The stronger European and "Cape 
Coloured" influence within Mpondo music 
relative to that of the Sotho, who lived farther to 
the east, was no doubt due to the Mpondo 's 
greater proximity to the Cape Colony. 


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The Concertina in Zulu and Sotlio 

Early appearances in the Zulu homeland 

Missionaries were often the first to bring 
western implements and inventions, including 
concertinas, into remote African cultures (see 
Figure 5); such was the case between 1879 and 
1880, when a party of Jesuit missionaries came 
into the Matabele kingdom of King Lobengula. 
Lobengula ruled a branch of the Zulu tribe that 
had separated and fled from the main Zulu group 
in South Africa to western Zimbabwe in the 
1830s. Lobengula was suspicious of any 

The missioners, although Lobengula was 
"perhaps already prejudiced by ministers of 
heresy established in his immediate 
neighborhood, " determined at once to obtain 
admission among the Tabili. Lo the luckless "did 
not want more teachers, " but the Jesuit capacity 
in mechanical arts allowed them to remain. One 
missioner repaired the royal chariot. . . . Another 
adorned (Lobengula 's) tent with a coat-of-arms 
that did honor to the heraldry of Africa. . . . The 
barbarian was so tickled that he would gaze for 
hours. Music, too, had attractions, for when the 
missioner played the concertina, the royal hand 
beat time. But the chief triumph was the sewing 
machine. Lobengula had seen much, hut a 
machine that would sew was too much. . . . The 
chief exclaimed: "What people the English are! 
They can do anything; yet they must die like 
ourselves. "^^ 

Lobengula's suspicions were well-founded. 
The missionaries' probe was followed by British 
teams seeking mining concessions, and in 1893 
by a visit from the British South Africa 
Company, the emissaries of which carried a 
Maxim machine gun. This encounter brought 
about the violent overthrow of Lobengula's 
kingdom and ushered in the founding of colonial 

The main branch of Zulus to the south in 
modern South Africa took up arms against a 


British ultimatum at the time of the visit of the 
above missionaries. The British won the Anglo- 
Zulu war of 1879, and Zululand was ultimately 
incorporated into the growing Crown colony. 
Zulus began to work for the whites, as did the 
hired Zulu mule -driver who dropped his 
concertina during the preparations for the battle 
of Colenso during the Second Anglo-Boer war in 
1899 (see Chapter 5). Many Zulus drove oxen 
and other livestock on various market treks for 
European fanners (Hgure 6); a British woman 
writing about her experience on a trek in 1893 
captured one such instance: 

We sat around the campfire last night and wished 

for you andJiidd. . . . Bright moonlight, 
campfires gleaming, men talking and laughing 
and Kaffirs singing and playing the concertina, 
and just before bedtime a big outfit [i.e. wagon 
train] pulled in from the north. You can hear 
them a mile away, whips popping, dogs barking 
and those queer indescribable yells, shrieks and 
groans, which are considered necessary to make 
the oxen move. 

Some Zulu began to work in the gold mines 

near Johannesburg, beginning a long tradition of 
migrant African workers in the mines. These 
migrant workers came not only from the Zulu 
tribe but from Sotho, Xhosa and other ethnic 
groups from even farther afield. It is at this time 
when concertinas began to be particularly 
popular in Zulu society; the concertina helped 
ease the miners' feelings of loss and 
homesickness during their long and difficult 
stints at the mines. 

The working conditions at the mines and at 
the accommodations provided for migrant miners 
were typically appalling, and the work amounted 
to little better than penal servitude. According to 
an account in London's The Strand Magazine of 
1897 concerning the workers in the mines near 

Mr. H. Freeman Cohen, whose South African 
interests employ hundreds of Kaffirs, tells me that 
the men are paid £3 a month, and live in 
compounds under fairly close supervision. Arty 

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The Concertina in Africa 

black found in Johannesburg after nine o 'clock 
at night, without a pass from his white "boss, " is 
locked up and fined heavily. The men are, as a 
ride, merry, good-tempered fellows, fond of 
music and dancing; their instruments are 
primitive, the principal ones being the common 
tin whistle, mouth-organ, concertina, jew 's harp, 
and tin kettle. This latter is banged — simply 
banged, the deficiency in "music " being 
counterbalanced by the general uproar. 

"Close supervision" included prohibition of 
alcohol. After its legal imposition in about 1897, 
in order to quell fighting amongst the mine 

There were no fights, and the usual close 
observance of the Kaffir constable, immediately 

after the pay, has resulted in a complete sinecure. 
"On Saturday last, " he says, "every boy was 
sober, on the following morning there was not a 
single prisoner, and instead of the unseemly 
brawls the boys were diligently applying 
themselves to mending their rugs or other 
belongings, or playing the concertina or Kaffir 
piano. The change was marvellous. "^^ 

That particular mine, one of many in the 
region, employed two thousand migrant male 
workers. The prohibition of alcohol to 
mineworkers lasted many decades, and resulted 
in the growth of the shebeens, illegal liquor 
houses where a tradition of "squashbox" 
concertina playing and township jive was to 
develop during Apartheid in the twentieth 
century (described below). 


The Anglo-German Concertina 

When the mines closed in 1899 during the 
Second Boer War, thousands of ethnic Zulus 
were stranded nearly two hundred miles from 
their homes in Natal, during a dangerous time of 
war. As we saw in the previous chapter, a kind- 
hearted public servant took responsibility for the 
situation and formed a mass column to march 
them home. His story allows us a glimpse of the 
growing popularity of concertinas with the Zulu: 

At the head of the Marwick's procession of 
Africans were a couple of Boer policemen. 
Behind them, marching thirty abreast, were a 
group of musicians, playing concertinas. They 
played popular African tunes. Behind the 
musicians marched an immense body of men, 
Zulus in African or European dress, all the tribes 
of Natal. On 7th they reached Heidleberg; on 
the 10th Waterval, over a hundred miles south- 
east of Johannesburg; by the 13th they had 
marched the 1 70 miles to Joubert 's camp at 
Volkruston the Natal frontier. . . . Marwick's 
epic march had saved seven thousand Natal 

A r ■ r -30 

Africans jrom starvation. 

The Zulu's use of the concertina is not much 
written about during the early twentieth century. 
We must depend upon a few press sightings to 
gauge its popularity, as in The Times' self- 
effacing look into the sad state of Zulu affairs in 

The time was . . . when "Zulu " was a synonym of 
all that was ruggedly honest and brave, and the 
Zulus were regarded as worthy of the most 
implicit trust by the whites whom they served . . . 
today one is forced . . . to deplore the virtual 
disappearance of these attributes, except in (the) 
aged. . . . Truth to tell, we have exploited the 
Zulu: the shadow of our civilisation is upon him, 
and the return we offer is a paltry one; we 
complain generally . . . of all his faults. . . . Worst 
of all, it is not in accord with our economic ideas 
that after six months labour he should, with few 
exceptions, shed his quasi -Europe an garb, and 
return to the fastness of his tribe. There, clad in a 
loin-cloth, with the great earthenware pot of 
utywala (beer) in the shade of the reed-thatched 
hut, stretched at his ease, the insizwa regards 


himself critically through the medium of a cheap 
mirror and corrects with tweezers and comb the 
waywardness of his sprouting beard; a German 
concertina lies handy to the touch. What could 
the world — or the white man 's fetish — ^ve 

Concertina transport 

From the above "sighting" we can see that 
by the 1920s the concertina had become an 
accepted and even common part of Zulu culture. 
Unlike "quasi-European garb," it fit right in. 
Moreover, for the Zulu it became more than a 
musical instrument; it was "transport" to and 
from the mine. Harry Scuifield, a modem day 
aficionado of Zulu squashbox music, interviewed 
Bongeni Mthethwa, a musicologist at the 
University of Natal, some twenty years ago. 
Mthethwa described a musical migrant Zulu: 

[He] uses his instruments as a mode of transport. 

He can walk long distances to the music of his 
guitar /concertina. The concertina is supposed to 
"transport" him, since the walk becomes 
transformed into a musical experience. It is also 
common to find the guitar, violin, concertina 
ensemble forming a walking band in the rural 



Figure 7, drawn by South African illustrator 
Heinrich Egersdorfer (1853-1915), shows just 
such concertina transport in action among a 
group of miners on the way home from the 
mines. Such transport was also common for 
shepherds in the veld, as a period painting attests 
(Figure 6). 

In the years before the concertina arrived, 
the setolotolo, a braced mouth bow, was the main 
means of "transport." As South African 
ethnologist David Coplan notes, however, "by 
the late nineteenth century, it [the mouth bow] 
had been supplanted as a mode of transport 
among migrants by the concertina (korosetina), 
which could be played under a man's blanket, the 
pumping of his arms and fingers heating his body 
as the words and music beguiled his intellect and 
warmed his heart."^^ 

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The Concertina in Africa 

It I 


j' Sketf;he8»of South A'r naitlfjlfc.'*'?; 

'No, B Ull t it '.vay He- 
Pllbig^'{|d,><7 B- O-.t iiS^lwir., !■. U. Ji. -HI 

Figure 7. "On the Way Home from the Mines," A drawing by South African illustrator Heinrich Egersdorfer, ca. 1900, 
showing a group of African miners walking home from the mines. Such treks were quite lengthy, and the concertina's 
rhythmic walking music was highly prized. From the collection of Jared Snyder. 

An account of an American visitor to Natal 
in or before 1910 sympathetically describes an 
encounter with such "concertina transport:" 

/ heard once in the sohtude of the hills of 
Swartzkop in Natal a Kafir lad softly playing a 
concertina as he strolled barefooted along a 
narrow mountain trail. One little haunting 
phrase he repeated over and over again 
producing a tone so sweet and seductive that I 
stood entranced. As he passed me, some pretty 
instinct of courtesy, or bashfulness perhaps, 
prompted him to subdue his tone to a mere 
breath of sweet sound, producing an effect in the 
stillness of the late afternoon that was 

I have learned since through an Englishman who 
knows something of the Kafir that a native man is 
known by the one tune he always plays. Here we 

have the primitive exemplification of the leit 
motif. Moreover the Kafir has a way of repeating 
his tune in cycles in some manner unfathomed by 
the white man. So my boy of the concertina 
probably had some large rhythmic plan, which 
made him loath to stop playing, lest he might 
thereby lose count and perforce have to go back 
to the very beginning.^'* 

South African Todd Matshikiza wrote of a 
friend in 1960 who epitomized the modem 
continuance of the "concertina transport" 

/ enjoy travelling the way Ranoke Sibabule does. 
He is my favorite concertina player. He travels 
far and wide on foot with his concertina as his 
only companion. He has travelled five thousand 
miles across the face of South Africa to make 
music here and there, and his feet are still good 


The Anglo-German Concertina 

enough for another ten thousand. It is not the 
distances that make him want to go. It is the 
music, his concertina that put him in touch with 
God as he walks across the rugged face of the 
earth. He says God always meets him in the open 
veld an ' tells him all is right with the world, but 
the people in it not so. He says it 's better to 
travel this way, alone with his concertina, 'cause 
sitting in a plane nex ' to someone you don 't know 
might give you a pain in the neck.^^ 

Johnny Clegg, a white South African 
performer of Zulu and Zulu-influenced music in 
the late twentieth century, commented that what 
had by the late 1970s become the Zulu concertina 
tradition had been "generated out of 
acculturation, out of a process whereby migrants 
left their townlands, went into the city, were 
exposed to different musical forms and came 
back ... hi KwaZulu you will not find any 
exponents of good concertina music . . . unless 
they are migrants."^^ 

"Concertina transport" was fairly common 
in South Africa until the last few decades, as this 
brief account of 2007 makes clear: 

An erstwhile South African came to the house on 
business the other day; I got chatting to him and 
he suddenly noticed my concertina. "Ooh, a 
squashbox, " he said, "How the blacks used to 
love them! " He said it had been a common sight 
to see a black South African walking down the 
road, going somewhere at great speed, playing 
their concertina continuously. He described it as 
"playing the same tune over and over again " but 
I think what he meant was that the walker had a 
chord pressed and just went in and out as he 
marched, just 2 chords. Driving along, you would 
hear the squashbox before you noticed the player 
and It would still be audible when he was 
receding into the distance. He didn 't have any 
particular musical interest hut "squashhoxes " 
were apparently common enough to be a strong 
reminder of old days in South Africa for him.^^ 

An example of a traditional Zulu walking 
song, U Tugela, played by twentieth century 
player John Bambata, is described below (see 

"Playing in the squashbox style") and is included 
as a transcription in Chapter 10. 

Sotho concertina playing 

The Sotho people live in present day 
Lesotho and adjacent parts of South Africa and 
speak the Sesotho language. like the Zulu, they 
too had become dependent upon income from 
migrant labor, and they too played the German 
concertina. A wedding of 1923 in Besutoland 
(now independent Lesotho) was described as 

The marriage takes place in a native church. The 

wedding party and the guests are all dressed in 
European clothes and they return from the 
church by wagon to the hut of the girl 's father on 
his master 's farm, where sheep have been 
slaughtered and much . . . beer made, and 
dancing and singing go on constantly for two 
days. The music is made by a concertina and 
guitar, and in all Basiito dances the male and 
female never dance together. 

The Sotho were miners as well; David 

Coplan noted that "southern Sotho miners, for 
example, played the guitar or German (Czech) 
concertina in place of traditional instruments, as 
accompaniment to the individualised singing and 
dancing of their friends."^' Coplan attributed the 
introduction of the German concertina in Sotho 
culture to Afrikaner (Boer) fanners, in rural 
areas. In later years, the concertina was known in 
the low culture of the shebeens (drinking houses 
for migrants in the neighborhoods near the 
mines) where Sotho gangs dealt with prostitution 
and other crimes, and where famo dancing was 
practiced."^" The suggestive and seductive famo 
was danced by women to the music of a 
concertina or accordion. With time, the accordion 
supplanted the concertina in this music."^' The 
Sotho men danced the diphotha, a step dance 
derived directly from dances of the Europeans. 
Like the Zulu gumboot dance (see below), the 
men wore gumboots, and the music was typically 
played by a concertina.^"^ 


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Some of these musicians were recorded. 
Again quoting from Coplan: 

Local recording companies had been on the 
lookout for material . . . since the 1920s. The 
Basotho concertina tradition was already highly 
developed, and in the 1940s a number of 
recordings of solo male singers/players appeared 
that featured astonishing virtuoso performances 
on that small instrument (T. Makala, Tsbetla and 

Kroonstad, Gallotone GB1604.Y591) The 

rhythmic three-chord instrumental 
accompaniment made women 's shebeen singing 
a good sales prospect, and by the 1950s migrants 
could buy seoelevelele recordings spiced up with 
tell-it-like-it-is female vocals.''^ 

Modern Forms of South African 
Concertina Use 

Gumboot dancing 

The so-called gumboot dance began with the 
first migrant laborers in the mines in the 1880s. 
The men wore gumboots (black rubber 
Wellington boots) in the wet mines during dark, 
difficult working conditions, and because 
conversation was restricted by their overseers 
they often communicated by slapping their boots. 
In off hours, their antics while performing this 
dance style made fun of their mine bosses, 
allowing the participants to relieve stress. 
Dancers today typically wear baseball caps, 
"cowboy" style shirts, and rattles or chains on 
their boots. A recent performance was described 
by ethnomusicologist Carol A. Muller: 

Late on the morning of January 6, 1966, as is 
typical of gumboot dance, a visiting team of 
dancers arrived with a guitarist and concertina 
player playing a cyclical riff that moved between 
the tonic, subdominant, and dominant chords. 
The leader of the team walked ahead of the dance 
team, who moved into the performance space 
with a stylized walk, their arms outstretched at 
the sides of their bodies. Occasionally, the 
dancers punctuated this movement by hitting 
their boots together at the ankles in a quick 
rhythmic pattern. They circled around the open 
space in the homestead, and then moved into a 
stationary straight-line formation, with the leader 
and musicians standing apart from the rest of the 



This dance has become very popular with 
school children and tourists, and is the subject of 
a popular modern South African dance 
production {Gumboots) that tours internationally. 
The Topic CD entitled Gumboot Guitar was 
recorded in the streets of Durban in 1988 and 
1996, and features several tracks with the 
concertina, along with guitar and the slapping of 


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The Anglo-German Concertina 


Maskanda derives from the Afrikaans word 
musikante (musician). It is a migrant-based neo- 
traditional Zulu musical form, and in the words 
of South African musicologist Lx)uise Meintjes, 

Maskanda, you could think of essentially as a 
singer-songwriter tradition. It comes out of an 
acoustic, "traditional" context in which 
musicians play guitars, violins, mouth organs, 
concertinas, jews harps, but draw upon 
traditional harmonic progressions from 
Zulu music, and particularly from the sound 
of a Zulu bow. It is an improvisational, 
reflective form of composition, which 
includes some competitive elements, and 
some self praise. Different instruments are 
associated with men and women. Men 
maskandi generally play guitars, 
concertinas, and violins. Women maskandi 
play mouth organs and jews harps. 

Maskanda was developed by Zulus 
who worked on Boer farms in the early 
twentieth century. At these farms, the Zulu 
men saw and heard European music played 
on traditional Boer instruments, which 
included guitar, concertina, vioUn, and 
banjo.'*^ Maskanda also was influenced by 
the street singing of migrants in 
Johannesburg and other cities, and it 
contains a heavy stylistic contribution from 
traditional Zulu mouth bow music. The 
mouth bow (see Figure 8) plays 
fundamental notes and overtones that form 
a pentatonic scale, and European 
instruments like the concertina and guitar 
pay homage to the bow in their adaptation 

1 ■ "48 

to this music. 

Maskanda is very much a storyteller 
genre, and describes often gritty migrant 
culture. In traditional rural Zulu villages, 
maskanda music was often viewed 
negatively as a byproduct of wicked urban 
Ufe. The guitar carried negative connotations 
because of this, and the concertina was 
thought by some traditionalists in Zulu culture 

to be the "instrument of Satan.""*' The concertina 
was a large part of early maskanda, but has lost 
ground to the guitar, which is the primary 
instrument today. Nonetheless, the band of the 
popular singer Busi Mhlongo includes a gently 
rhythmic concertina in her most popular CD, 
Urbanzidu, released in 2000. Perhaps the 
concertina will make a comeback in this genre, 
although the style today seems to have evolved 
into more of a pop genre. 

A Musical Quartette 

Figure 8. South African musicians, ca. early twentieth century. The 
group is playing a harmonica, a lesiba (mouth bow), an umakhweyane 
(brace gourd bow), and a German concertina. With thanks to Jared 


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The Concertina in Africa 

Mbaqanga and township jive. 

Mbaqanga, according to Louise Meintjes, 
"is a studio-produced music, essentially with 
garage band backing, a close harmony front line 
that could be men or women, sometimes with a 
male figure like Mahlathini, who would sing with 
a deep bass voice, and was known as a 
"groaner." It was a form of South African 
Afropop that enjoyed its heyday in the 1970s, 
and enjoyed a revival in the early 1990s, 
following the Graceland album.""^° 

Its name refers to com mush, a staple of the 
black South African diet, implying that this is a 
simple, down-home musical product. According 
to Charles Hamm, 

[It is] sometimes called vocal jive, gumba-gumba 
or even jazz. . . . A typical piece of contemporary 
Mbaqanga, by Moses Mchunu for instance, 
begins with a brief improvised passage by 
acoustic guitar or concertina, rhythmically 
ambiguous; drums and bass enter, setting the 
beat and establishing a four-bar sequence of 
chords over which the entire piece will unfold; 
passages for the singer . . . alternate with 
instrumental breaks. A violin [or] one or more 
saxophones may also be used. Elements of 
African and European music are intermingled.^' 

South African jive, according to Hamm, 
echoed early American rock music: 

[It] was the South African equivalent of rock 'n ' 
roll. By the 1960s, its most common 
instrumentation consisted of an amplified lead 
guitar supported by an acoustic rhythm guitar, 
and a rhythm section of electric bass and a 
Western drum set, often augmented by one or 
more saxophones and a concertina. This 
combination, playing in a fast driving rhythm, 
created a sound superficially similar to that of 
early American rock 'n ' roll.^~ 

Concertina playing in black South Africa 
was in steep decline by the 1970s. Harry 
Scurfield, who has documented the course of 
black South African concertina music, noted that: 

In the late 1980s, a fourteen-year-old black 
friend from Soweto said, upon hearing some of 
my township records: "Yes, it 's good music; it 's 
what older people, like my mother, listen to " — 
serious condemnation, indeed, from a fourteen 
year old. In March 1990, Johnny Clegg told me 
that it was very rare now to hear the concertina 
played in the streets. 

Figure 9. Concertina case, cardboard, with African-motif 
label, likely made for the South African market; twentieth 
century. With thanks to Daniel Hersch. 

The "squashbox" instrument of South Africa 

The concertina played in the modern music 
described above is colloquially known as the 
"squashbox" in urban South Africa. In the 
nineteenth century these were inexpensive two- 
row German concertinas, not fundamentally 
different from those used by the nearby Boer 
people, or by English and Irish players in Europe. 
As German merchandisers focused on the black 
African market, they produced models with 
labels and even endplates with African motifs 
(Figure 9). As the African playing tradition 
matured, African musicians looked for 
modifications to make the instrument better 
suited to their musical purpose. In recent 
decades, the main supplier of instruments to the 
South African market was the Italian company 


The Anglo-German Concertina 

Bastari (purchased by Brunner Musica in 1992). 
They made a two-row model with a special 
"squashbox" keyboard for the South African 
market. Harry Scurfield, one of very few non- 
South Africans to play the instrument, describes 
it as follows (also see Figure 10): 

[T]o those familiar with the Anglo buttonboard, 
it is like an Anglo in E flat and B flat, but with the 
push/pull reversed on both the right hand end of 
the E-flat row and the left-hand of the B-flat row. 
(In addition, there is a D on the pull on the right- 
hand row). To an Anglo player like myself, it is a 
bit like trying to ride on a bicycle on which, upon 
turning the handlebar left, the bike turns right — 
but only sometimes. . . . 

[A Jlthough there are disadvantages to the 
squashbox layout, there are also some 
advantages. One useful feature is that several 
notes (B flat, C, D, E flat, F, and G) are available 
on the push and the pull, so that the player does 
not "run out of bellows" when continually 
playing the same note: he can simply change 
button and direction. . . . Certainly, this factor is 
used to good purpose on many recordings, with 
exciting, sustained drone effects that cut across 
the rhythm, either in the bass or in a higher 
register, at times a fifth, at times an octave from 
the tonic. The system also makes it useful, if not 
essential, to cross rows, so that players do not 
think of distinct B-flat and E-flat rows, but rather 
in terms of discrete notes on different parts of the 

There is little in the way of documentation 
of the origin of this tuning system, but it is likely 
to have been a twentieth-century innovation. 

Harry Scurfield, who has 
origins of this innovation with 
past manufacturer of such 

According to 
researched the 
Bastari, the 

[TJhis innovation was more likely made by 
players themselves. Dr. Bastari wrote to me that 
he had no records as to how or when it came 
about: I think he was feeding back to a market 
that had already made these changes. The reeds 
are riveted onto plates (like accordion reeds) 
which can easily be changed over, as they are 
held in place by beeswax or screws.'^ 

Playing in the squashbox style 

To hear the squashbox played in a South 
African style, be it for concertina transport 
music, gumboot dancing, maskanda, or township 
jive, is to sample a completely non-European 
take on music, which along with the concertina 
music of other ethnic groups in Africa is unique 
among the world's current Anglo-German 
concertina players. European dance and popular 
song music, and the Anglo concertina's playing 
of it, concentrate above all else on the melody, 
which is usually rather rigidly divided into eight- 
bar phrases. African music focuses on rhythm, 
augmented by progressions of chords. Phrases, if 
that word may be used, are typically very brief, 
perhaps of a few measures duration. A rhythmic 
progression is played over and over again, with 

1 Left 













































Figure 10. The unique keyboard layout of the South African "squashbox." Image courtesy of Harry Scurfield. 


The Concertina in Africa 

subtle changes in rhythm, punctuation, phrasing, 
and chords carrying the musical message. The 
phrases and their phasing give a pronounced 
"pulse" to the music. It is this pulse, not the 
melody, that carries the tune, just as it 
"transports" a traveler. 

Two transcriptions of squashbox music, the 
Sotho song Mammolikoane and a Zulu walking 
song, U Tiigela, are provided in Chapter 10. 
Mammolikoane, a Sotho song, was recorded by 
Jonas Mate and Kleinbooi Motaung in 1930; the 
recording is to be found on the CD entitled 
Squashbox: Le Concertina Zoulou et Sotho en 
Afrique du Sud, reissued by Silex in 1993, and 
represents the earliest phase of recording of 
South African concertina music. Only the main 
"riff," or repetitive rhythmic segment, is shown. 
This riff repeats over and over again, as the 
backup to the singer, and is played rapidly in a 
dancing style. The harmonies are somewhat 
unfamiliar to those played on a C/G instrument 
because the squashbox is not in a standard 
German concertina tuning, and no details of the 
tuning of that particular instrument are known. 
The song, in the Sotho language, tells the story of 
the singer, who leaves to visit a friend in 
Johannesburg following a dispute about 
Mammolikoane' s daughter. 

U Tugela (Tugela River) was recorded ca. 
1950 by John Banabata. A good example of 
walking music ("concertina transport"), as played 
on the South African squashbox; it too can be 
found on the aforementioned "Squashbox" CD. 
The concertina lays out a brisk walking rhythm, 
and keeps it up throughout the piece. The first 
four-bar set is repeated several times, and then 
the musician plays a number of subtle variations 
on that main theme. Three such four-bar 
variations are shown; there are many more 
throughout. A song is sung to this music during 
part of the piece. The song is a complaint about 
an arranged marriage ("She had already sold me 
to another man"), and is sung in Zulu.^* Used to 
while away the many long hours spent walking 
from tribal homelands to the mines, such walking 
music was one of the main functions of the 
concertina in Zulu and Sotho society. 

The music and harmonies of this piece are 
based upon a pentatonic scale, a normal practice 
for many southern African cultures. U Tugela' s 
harmonies, as in the first piece, are unfamiliar to 
and not playable by players of a 30-key C/G 
Anglo -German concertina. The instrument used 
in the recording had a modified "squashbox" 
keyboard, probably similar to that depicted in 
Figure 10. 

Harry Scurfield, who has extensively studied 
squashbox playing, relates a visit with a South 
African musician who showed him the basic 
elements of the style, from a player's perspective: 

About 4 years ago I met Mr. Maqhinga Radebe, 

first and foremost a guitarist, who was playing 
guitar with the Zimbabwean band Imbongi. 
Maqhinga is from Durban, South Africa, and 
when I asked him about concertinas, he told me 
that his father had played. I shot off home and 
got back with my "squashbox", and Maqhinga 
quickly showed me that he not only knew what 
the instrument was, but that the also knew his 
way around it with some skill 

He demonstrated some of the two or three chord 

harmonic progressions which are fundamental to 
much of the repertoire, with some conventional 
triads, but other gapped chords, too, sometimes 
trespassing onto the right hand to fill these out. 
He made full use of the different "directions" 
(push-pull) of the "squashbox" layout, and was 
more than competent at laying down a solid pulse 
with these. 

One feature in particular went against the 
orthodoxy of most European anglo technique: 
most Irish and English players prefer, wherever 
possible, to avoid using the same finger to play 
two consecutive buttons, in order to be able to 
move relatively smoothly from one note to the 
next. (Obviously, changing notes is sometimes 
simply a question of changing direction whilst 
sticking on the same button, but this is a different 
point!) Maqhinga would easily, powerfully and 
accurately "jump " one or maybe two or three 
fingers from button to button, row to row, and 
this, far from sounding clumsy, came across as a 


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The Anglo-German Concertina 

punchy way of fingering the sequences of notes 
or chords required. Later on, going back to hsten 
to recordings of the likes ofNgane and Khamba 
Lomvelahso, and many of the dozens of Zulu 
musicians who have used the instrument, I 
recognized that this was an integral part of the 
style, one of the elements that give this music its 

Another feature of much of the recorded 
"squashbox " playing over many decades, and an 
element obviously much prized, is subtle bellows 
use. This may be connected with the lightweight 
construction of the instrument, and I feel sure 
that the two parallel octaves of the double reeds 
activated by each single button make its effect 
more pronounced. Be that as it may, the swell 
and fall, the attack and decay, the "shaping " of 
individual notes or chords, combined with a 
delicate vibrato, all effectuated by carefid and 
subtle variation of pressure on the bellows give 
tremendous "feeling" to the music of many 
players. Even in the loud, punchy, "rock band" 
context on Busi Mhlongo 's "Urbanzulu " CD., 
Mphendukelwa Mkhize adds a warm emotion 
through his outstanding bellows control that 
should be studied by many musicians playing far 
more sophisticated instruments! As implied 
earlier, this careful and thoughtful use of the 
bellows can be traced back a long way on 
recordings of a host of players. 

The Concertina in West Africa 

Early appearances 

The concertina arrived in the port towns of 
West Africa at about the same time it did in Cape 
Town, as European merchant ships were plying 
all the major ports looking for places to sell or 
trade their wares. Certainly it arrived in Nigeria 
by the 1850s. A missionary in Ikija, Nigeria in 
the late 1850s was pleading to his donors back in 
England for a bell. In his current bell-less status, 
he said he could hardly employ someone to call 
people to prayer, as the Muslims there did; and 
"neither can he, as a native missionary was in the 
habit of doing, go around in the streets with a 
concertina, to draw together a congregation."^* 
He received his bell, finally, in 1859. This 
account shows that not only had the concertina 
arrived in West Africa by the 1850s — about the 
same time as it arrived in Australia, Ireland, and 
the United States — ^but that it was already being 
played by a native African. 

As we shall see below, the concertina was 
actively used by native people in port towns 
along the Angola coast by the 1870s. Farther 
inland, in about 1881, missionaries brought a 
concertina along with other gifts to the King of 
Bailunda, in what is now central Angola: 

The Missionary Herald for August gives an 
interesting account of the first interview of the 
West Central Africa missionaries with the King 
of Bailunda. After a tedious waiting in front of 
his house, during which time some hundred men 
and boys collected to see the sight, the King came 
forward and squatted in their midst. Their 
present to his majesty consisted of four pieces of 
large handkerchie fs (twelve in a piece), two fancy 
shirts for himself, and six cheap cotton shirts, two 
string clasp knives, one copper tea-kettle, one 
concertina, two pairs of cheap bracelets. Mr. 
Sanders and Mr. Bagster explained the object of 
their visit and asked if they could settle in his 
country. He replied that he was an old man but 
that they might come and live in his country a 
thousand years if they liked, but that when he 
died he could not say any more. He seemed 


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The Concertina in Africa 

pleased with his visitors, and it is desirable to 
secure his friendship.^^ 

Explorers introduced the concertina to West 
Africa in areas ever farther inland, often with 
missionaries in tow. The contrasts in culture were 
often very large, but Europeans pursued such 
exploration relentlessly, as it held the promise of 
knowledge, trade, souls for conversion, conquests 
of territory, or all of the above. Sir Richard 
Burton — who lived long before the actor of that 
name — was appointed by Queen Victoria to bear 
a message to the elusive and despotic King of 
Dahomey, now called Benin. The description of 
the meeting, in 1864, is worthy of Joseph 
Conrad. Burton was accompanied by "Dr. 
Cruikshank of the Antelope [a ship], a coloured 
Weslayan minister of Whydah [in present day 
Nigeria], named Bernisco, and a hundred 
servants."^" The missionary Bernisco brought his 
concertina; as he was a person of little means it 
was doubtless a German one of inexpensive 
manufacture. When Burton and his party neared 
King Gelele's compound, they encountered 
Gelele's bodyguard, made up of a thousand fierce 
female warriors. The visitors then began a 
lengthy visit of many days: 

Gelele, who was 45 years of age, and six feet 
high, sat under the shade of a shedgate, smoking 

a pipe, with a throng of his wives squatted in a 
semicircle around him . ... the presents from the 
Queen were delivered; and on Dec. 28 what was 
called "The Customs " began, that is the 
slaughtering of criminals and persons captured 
in war. 

Burton's presence was required throughout 
this ritual; he was never allowed out of Gelele's 
sight. On the fifth day of Customs, the scene was 
as follows: 

Four corpses, attired in their criminal 's shirts 
and night-caps, were sitting in pairs upon Gold 
Coast stools, supported by a double storied 
scaffold. . . . At a little distance on a similar 
erection.. .were two victims, one above the other. 
Between these substantial structures was a 

gallows of thin posts, some thirty feet tall, with a 
single victim hanging by the heels head 
downwards. Hard by were two others dangling 
side by side. The corpses were nude and the 
vultures were preying upon them, and squabbling 
over their hideous repast. All this was grisly 
enough, but there was no preventing it. Then 
came the court revels. The king danced in public, 
and at his request. Burton and Dr. Cruikshank 
also favoured the company. Bernisco, when 
called upon, produced a concertina and played, 
"O, let us be joyful, when we meet to part no 



Certainly this was the most horrific 

introduction of a concertina ever! 

By the 1870s the concertina was well 
entrenched among native African players in 
Portuguese Angola, and the story there is similar 
to that at Cape Town: 

[T]he concertina, flute and tin penny-whistle 

have become naturalized in the colony thanks to 
merchants and sailors. The militaty bands made 
up of Negroes and mulattos, and usually led by a 
white, play the pieces popular in Europe, and 
many a Negro has become a virtuoso on his 
instrument . . . everywhere in Angola, even in the 
interior, men, women, and children can 
immediately and correctly whistle and sing the 
melodies played by the military bands. 

The writer of the above passage was 
German explorer Herman Soyaux, who visited 
from 1872 through 1876. As in Cape Town, the 
miUtary bands consisted of mixed-race and black 
musicians who were eager to hear the new 
western music. Soyaux makes it clear that 
merchants, as well as sailors, introduced the 
cheap German concertina to the local populace. 

English trader John Whitford observed that 
the concertina was played farther north along the 
coast in Gabon by 1875. He and his party had 
entered a village on the Gabon River, and were to 
visit the family of a European shopkeeper — a 
likely place to find an early concertina in West 


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The Anglo-German Concertina 

Nobody is about, which certainly appears 
strange, but sounds of revelry come from the 
upper floor of the two-storied store; music and 
clapping of hands and women 's and children 's 
voices peal forth. . . . Forming a procession, we 
ascend the outer staircase to the verandah and 
knock on the door; but the revellers do not hear 
the knocking; so we make bold to lift the latch 
and enter, and there we see a man playing the 
melodious concertina, drawing it in and out as a 
sort of ferocious accompaniment to stringed 
instruments played by others, while comely dark 
damsels twirl about to the great delight of their 
children squatted on the floor. 

The Cape Verde Islands, a few hundred 
miles off the West African coast, was another 
Portuguese colony during this time. With its large 
African population — those islands had once been 
a bastion of the transatlantic slave trade — and its 
large number of unmarried immigrant farmers 
from Portugal, a lively mixed-race Creole culture 
had quickly formed. A British visitor of 1873 
attended a dance with his hosts: 

We were ushered into an apartment so full of 

smoke that at first we could not see distinctly; 
but, as our eyes became accustomed to the 
atmosphere, we discovered a large room with 
glass doors opening into the street, and a crowd 
of coloured ladies and gentlemen smoking 
cigarettes. On one side was a table covered with 
dirty glasses, and bottles of rum, hollands, and 
aguardiente; and, next to the table, was the 
orchestra, which consisted of a guitar, a violin, 
and a concertina. They were just going to 
commence, and I turned my attention to the 
dancers. The ladies were variously attired; some 
in dresses of gay-coloured cotton print, with 
bright handkerchiefs tied round their heads; and 
some in more costly raiment, with long trains. . . . 
With the gentlemen, coats did not appear to be 
necessary; nor, apparently was it in accordance 
with island etiquette to remove the hat. 

The opening quadrille was followed by a waltz; 
and, after a short time, some of the surgeons 
were sufficiently acclimated to Join in it. As for 

me, as I did not dance, I entered into 
conversation with a little black-eyed half-caste, 
who talked volubly for ten minutes without 
uttering a single word that I recognised, except 
caramba . . . the room was very hot, and the 
noise tremendous; the stamping and shouts of the 
dancers, the strumming of the guitar, the shriek 
of the violin, and the asthmatic wheeze of the 
concertina, were almost deafening; while the 
odour of the bad tobacco, and the smell of musk, 
or some such pungent scent, with which all the 
senoras and senoritas were perfumed, were 
overpowering, so I went out into the cooler air of 
the street. . . . When I returned, the entertainment 
was over, and the hotel plunged into darkness. ^ 

This Cape Verde Creole culture was much 
Uke those discussed above at Angola and Cape 
Town, albeit on a smaller scale. In each of these, 
European ballroom dances were in use in the 
early 1870s, accompanied by the music of the 

Ghana's highlife and palm wine music 

While the concertina's subsequent history is 
unknown in most of the countries of West 
Africa — the instrument seems to have been 
dropped from everyday use early in the twentieth 
century — ^it found a significant use in the music 
of coastal Ghana from the 1900s to the 1950s. 
Ghana, also called the Gold Coast in early 
English accounts, was part of British Africa in 
the nineteenth century, and is thus an 
Anglophone country. There are two main streams 
to Ghana's highlife music: palm wine music and 
dance highlife. 

Palm wine music had its origins with the 
guitars and concertinas introduced into Ghana 
and Sierra Leone by Portuguese and British 
sailors; the music was spread further by the Kru 
people, seagoing traders of Liberia. In Ghana, a 
popular local drink is made from the palm tree, 
and the music was most often played at palm 
wine bars. According to ethnomusicologist John 
Storm Roberts, the music is a neo-traditional 
African regional style, played largely as 
"personal music, in which one or maybe two 


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The Concertina in Africa 

people play largely for their own self-expression 
and amusement. An example . . . might be a man 
singing about his troubles with his wife to an 
audience of two or three husbands and 
accompanying himself on a hand-piano. One of 
his listeners might be tapping a couple of sticks, 
and another clapping gently."^^ 

According to Christopher Waterman's 
history of African Jiiju music, 

Palm wine songs were accompanied with 

lamellaphone [an African instrument with a 
number of free reeds which are plucked] . . . or 
imported instruments such as a guitar, mandolin, 
or concertina. Palmwine accompaniment might 
also include rhythmic patterns played on a 
samba drum, beer bottles, or palm wine 
calabashes . . .struck with a nail or stick, and a 
matchbox, rapped with the fingernails. The palm 
wine tradition was associated with semi-literate 
immigrants by members of the African elite, and 
was conceptually and contextually segregated 
from the more "refined" music performed in 
salons and parlours. 

From this description, the German 

concertina had found its usual home. The style 
developed initially along the coast (some think 
that the combination of concertina, banjo, and 
guitar was due to sailor influence) and then 
spread inland. Palm wine music became quite 
popular in the late 1920s, and there were many 
recordings of it made.*^ 

At the same time, the more upscale members 
of the Ghanaian elite were dancing to ballroom 
dance orchestras; the word "highlife" became 
attached to this style. These orchestras played 
jazz, minstrel songs, marches, and novelty 
items,^^ and carried a strong European-American 
musical influence. They also began to orchestrate 
some of the palm wine tunes and local street 
songs. After World War 11, they moved in the 
direction of calypso and swing. Both of these 
types of music, palm wine and highlife, became 
known together as "highlife."'"'^ 

With time, the original palm wine groups 
moved toward guitars and away from the 
concertina, banjo, and lamellaphone. Most 

"highlife" recordings on the market today consist 
mainly of guitcir playing, and the style has a 
party-like feel. The first "highlife" guitarist in 
Ghana was Kwame Asare, otherwise known as 
"Sam," who made several early recordings of this 
music in the late 1920s in England. Sam's 
nephew, a well-known highlife musician of the 
1980s named Kwaa Mensah, mentioned Sam in 
an interview in the 1980s. Mensah spoke of the 
music being passed from a concertina-playing 
father to a guitar-playing son (Sam); here we can 
see that the concertina was disappearing from the 
scene by the end of the 1920s: 

Sam 's father was a storekeeper who sold 

carpenter 's tools in Cape Coast. His father 
played the concertina and used to take Sam, 
when he was only very smaU, on his shoulders to 
play clips (a percussion instrument). His father 
played Adaha, the music of the flute, fife, and 
brass bands, and also Opim or Ohuga (this is 
Akan Highlife played in three/four time with a 
gong rhythm similar to Adaha, usually referred 
to today as "Blues "). Opim was special music for 
the concertina (i.e.. Blues played on this 
instrument). Another rhythm they played was 
Ashiko. a Highlife played with a musical saw. 
Ashiko bands consisted of an accordion or 
concertina, clips, and a carpenter's saw. . . . Sam 
later learned to play the guitar against his 
father 's wishes, who thought only ruffians played 
the guitar. ™ 


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The Anglo-German Concertina 

The Concertina in Central and East 

Although the German concertina was 

introduced to Central and Eastern Africa by the 
last two decades of the nineteenth centuiy, it did 
not have lasting popularity there, as far as that 
can be known today. One exception involves the 
music of Madagascar, a large island off the east 
coast of Africa; musicians there incorporated 
concertina music with that of their native valiha 
(a bamboo zither). 

Native reactions upon first hearing the 

Coastal western and southern Africa 
received most of the earliest European visits to 
the African continent. For most of more remote 
central and east Africa, significant European 
contact in the form of explorers and missionaries 
did not take place until the flush of empire- 
building that occurred in the last few decades of 
the nineteenth century. A few fascinating 
documents exist that describe the reaction of 
indigenous people to the music of a free reed 
heard for the first time — the same reaction that a 
science fiction writer of today might imagine that 
we would have upon first hearing a space aUen's 

In about 1884, an English explorer and 
adventurer named Walter Kerr, along with an 
assistant named da Costa, reached the shores of 
Lake Nyassa in present day Malawi. They were 
delayed there for some time while waiting for 
canoes and bearers, and spent some of that time 
describing their surroundings. These descriptions 
include some surprising reactions to the 
concertina that they carried: 

Da Costa and myself passed our afternoons and 

evenings in various ways. When we approached 
the hut the crowd would gather and keep up 
incessant begging. But cloth in this out-of-the- 
way place was far too valuable a commodity to 
throw away for nothing. The concertina which da 
Costa played called forth great signs of 
admiration. Much in the same way as the people 


had done with regard to his ill-fated donkey, they 
now began to bring corn on the cob and lay it 
down at the performer 's feet. Small wooden 
vessels fall of meat were also brought. These 
efforts to conciliate the concertina were intensely 

In Tanzania in 1884, a missionaiy named 
Goodyear reported back to his home Society that 
"it is a nice sight to see these women, who have 
all been slaves, squatting on a mud floor listening 
with rapture even to a common instrument Uke a 
German concertina."^^ 

The concertina was an object of pure 
amazement and sometimes shock for some 
groups upon its being heard for the first time. 
German explorer Hermann Wissmann, who 
travelled in another part of the central lake region 
of Malawi in the early 1880s, described the 
reaction of people there to the sound of a free- 
reed instrument. Wissmann' s story, written in 
German, was translated and relayed by Johannes 
Fabian in an award-winning book published in 
2000 entitled Out of Our Minds: Reason and 
Madness in the Exploration of Central Africa. 
Fabian was not entirely sure whether Wissmann 
was describing an accordion or the smaller, more 
easily portable concertina — ^it was common in 
Germany to call the German concertina an 
"accordion." Regardless, it is an unusual ghmpse 
into musical culture shock: 

The sounds ofMuller 's accordion had a peculiar 
effect upon these people. At first, they seemed to 
be overcome by deep sadness, which expressed 
itself in their faces and gestures, then apparently 
to be replaced by a feeling of great bodily pain. 
Making terrible faces, they pulled their knees up 
to their bodies and seemed ready to cry at any 
moment. While they were doing this they kept 
trying to protect themselves and motioning to 
make Miiller stop playing. The whole thing made 
such a comical impression that none of us could 
refrain from breaking out in loud laughter. 

By 1898, it appears that the Malawi people 
had overcome their initial reactions to the 
concertina and were playing it, much to the 

Copy rig hied material 

The Concertina in Africa 

annoyance of a visitor to the area, British 
anthropologist, Sir Harry Johnston: 

Music is one of the many arts in which the Negro 
has degenerated [since European contact]. There 
is evidence that before the coming of white men 
to these countries bringing the abominable 
concertina, panpipes, penny whistle, and 
harmonium, the natives played more musical 
instruments of their own than they do now, and 
thought much more of native music. 

With the coming of whites in many of these 
areas, the village store became the place where 
Africans could purchase concertinas. A good 
description of one such store in Zambia in the 
late 1890s survives in a romanticized tale of an 
African uprising there: 

JeckylVs store, near Malengwa, was an 
institution of considerable importance in its way . 
. . The building was a fair-sized oblong one, 
constructed of the usual wattle and "dagga " as 
to the walls, and a high-pitched roof of thatch . . . 
Rows of shelves lined the walls, and every 
conceivable article seemed represented — 
blankets and rugs; tinned food and candles; soap 
and cheese; frying-pans and camp-kettles . . . 
straps and halters; Boer tobacco and Manila 
cheroots; all jostling each other, down even to 
accordions and concertinas, seemed only to 
begin the list of general "notions " which . . . 
filled every available space. 

Use in the Congo and Kenya 

There is only patchy evidence available to 
support the concertina's significant use by 
indigenous African people in central and eastern 
Africa following its introduction, and little or no 
indication that any of that usage survived into the 
late twentieth century. What little evidence is 
known comes from the Congo, Kenya, and 

An account of Adolf Friedrich's German 
Central African Expedition of 1910-1911 paints 
this scene in a Congo village: 

Bambili is the largest station on the Uelle 
(River), and it was here that I first made 
acquaintance with the Mangbettus [tribe] . 
Amongst a crowd of women dancing to the sound 
of a concertina, the graceful movements of a girl 
attracted my attention . . . her father was the 
chief Denge . . . and her mother was the daughter 
ofMunza, a powerful Mangbettu king.^^ 

Li British colonial Kenya, from the period 
just before World War I, a surviving photograph 
shows a black Kenyan man in western dress 
playing a concertina (Figure 11). hi the 1920s, 
African dance bands played modern fox-trots, 
one-steps, and the like for African dances in 
Nairobi, in musical groups whose 
instrumentation typically consisted of 
"concertina, triangle, and drum."''^ Much later, 
the Salvation Army used concertinas in their 
training school in Nairobi. According to Stuart 

Figure 1 1 . Musician with German concertina, 
Kenya, ca. 1914. 


The Anglo-German Concertina 

Eydmann, "The journal of 2 March 1968, p. 156 
carried a photograph of a band of blind pupils 
with concertinas at Mombassa."'* 

Concertinas in Madagascar's musical culture 

The concertina was commonly played in 
Madagascar in the late nineteenth and early 
twentieth century. As was the case in southern 
and western Africa, it is likely that the concertina 
was introduced by coastal merchants in the mid- 
to-late 1800s, when the island was heavily 
influenced by British military and commercial 
interests. Madagascar's rulers lived with this 
strong British influence — although it was not a 
Crown colony — from 1817 until the French 
invaded in 1883. The island country was then 
under French rule until it won full independence 
in 1960. 

The first known sighting of the concertina is 
from 1894 in the village of Anavoka, an inland 
town in the central part of the east coast of 
Madagascar. A war correspondent from the 
British newspaper Daily Telegraph had been 
sent to keep tabs on the French, who had declared 
war on Malagasy for the second time in as many 
decades. The correspondent observed his porters 
at rest: 

Like sailors, these carriers had sweethearts in 

many places, and when supper was finished the 
music and songs began. The men had the 
"Valiha, " a sort of cylindrical harp made out of 
the thick rounded bamboo, and one of them had a 
concertina (constant screamer), "made in 
Germany. " The "Valiha " is simply fashioned, 
and gives a fine tone, more like a harp than a 
guitar. With a sharp-pointed knife, string-like 
strands of the bamboo are cut, the knife being 
held askew in slipping it down the cane. These 
strings are not detached from the bamboo, but 
are stretched and raised upon little hits of wood 
[bridges] to get the proper notes and tone. . . . 
One of my fellows I found wooing his sweetheart 
in a quiet comer. Whilst he sang softly to his lass 
he thrummed an accompaniment on the Valiha. ''^ 

By the time of the next known sighting by a 
British visitor in 1901, the concertina had 
apparently grown to be quite popular in most 

Every festive occasion, whether of a joyous or 
mournful nature, is accompanied by singing and 
music. If we go on the water, the boatmen 
accompany the stroke of the oars with their soft 
sailor songs, ceasing when perhaps a crocodile 
comes suspiciously near the craft. If we rest from 
the labours of the day in a Malagasy village a 
concert is gotten up for the entertainment of the 
stranger. If a person of consequence dies, 
musicians surround the house of mourning, 
followed by men and women, while the relations 
within are dissolved in tears. Among the 
Sakalava a monochord is used, drums are 
applied for giving an alarm, and the tones of a 
concertina are heard in almost all villages. The 
Hova play a violin with great skill; within the last 
ten years their trumpeters have composed a 
national hymn; one old princess had a 
granddaughter whom I heard play the piano 
really well. The valiha, or bamboo guitar, the 
tones of which make quite a pleasing impression 
on the ear, is used in many of the villages. ^° 

A photograph of 1910 shows a trio of 
traditional musicians, including a valiha player, a 

musician with a two-row German concertina, and 
a singer, who is clapping her hands (Figure 12). 
The trio may well consist of a mother with her 
two sons, indicating that the music played was 
considered socially acceptable and (probably) 

This concertina tradition continued through 

the 1920s, and some early 78rpm recordings were 
made of it by the Columbia, Odeon, and 
Gramophone companies from 1929 to 1931. The 
various groups that were recorded featured 
various combinations of valihas, violins, 
concertina, a polyphonic choir, and percussion. 
Those early recordings have been recently re- 
released.*' A reviewer commented on the 1996 


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The Concertina in Africa 

Figure 12. Three musicians in Madagascar, 1910. The young boys are playing a German concertina and a valiha, a bamboo 
zither that is the national instrument of Madagascar. From the collection of Jared Snyder. 

The European choral tradition is everywhere in 
this music, tinged with other Euro-devices like 
fiddle, accordion and concertina. The melodies 
are a blend of Indian Ocean and southern 
A frican, with their own cadences in sweet 
contrast to the vocal arrangements. The 
instruments, especially the bamboo and string 
valiha, are uniquely Malagasy. The twenty 
recordings on this set range from deep, full a 
capella numbers to lively string ensembles (one 
of these tracks opens with a very Swedish- 
sounding fiddle group). All the tracks are 
fabulous. If this is where the world music boom 
leads us, back to the early recorded roots of the 
world, lead on!^^ 

Although the use of concertina in 
Madagascar has declined since the time of those 
early recordings, the guitar has continued to 
evolve in Malagasy traditional music. A guitarist 
named Haja, who plays with the modem group 

Solomiral, remembers that his granduncle played 
the concertina: 

"/ was guitarist since I was 8 years old, " he says. 
"We were raised by a guitarist 's family. Our 
grandfather Ranaivo Betdnana is one of them. 
We were all there but I was lucky enough to have 
the quickest fingers. I chose what I do because 
our grandpa played Malagasy traditional style 
guitar, from the Merina and Rasaraka tribes. 
Grandfather was a mechanic. He did not play 
guitar as a profession but for ceremonies, 
weddings, circumcisions . . . He had a twin 
brother (who is dead now) who played 
concertina with him. 

Haja's grandfather, still aUve at the time the 
above piece was written, was interviewed in turn, 
and had this to say about his twin brother and his 


The Anglo-German Concertina 

My real name is Ranaivo Jean Baptiste. My 
brother played a concertina. It came from 
abroad. He bought it from the mpihira gasy 
[travelling musical street theatre entertainers] . 
He would learn for about a month, then he 'd sell 
the instrument and buy another one again until 
he was satisfied.^'' 

Although nearly forgotten, the concertina 
recently emerged with a young Malagasy group 
named Tarika Sammy, who released a popular 
recording in 1993 on Green Linnet records 
entitled Fanfody. They followed its release with a 
world tour, where a New York Times music critic 
found them: 

Tarika Sammy is part of a recent phenomenon on 
the island: professional music-making, with pan- 
tribal eclecticism. Based in Antananarivo, the 
capital, the two-man, two-woman group draws 
on traditional music from nearly two dozen tribes 
on the island, for a repertory full of vitality and 
variety. The music gleamed with the plucked lines 
and riffs of the valiha, a bamboo tube zither 
strung with bicycle-brake cable, or the 
marovany, a two-sided box zither, and with 
chords strummed on the kabosy, a small guitar. 
Sammy (Samoela Andriamalalaharijaona) also 
played jejy voatavo, a stringed instrument with 
an open calabash resonator, and concertina. 
Vocals were shared in four-part harmony, 
possibly kin to South African singing, or traded 
back and forth, sometimes with grunting male 
voices answered by sustained glottal bleats from 
the women. Tunes in major keys sounded sunny 
and optimistic to a Western ear; others m minor 
modes had circling riffs that could happily go on 

r 85 


The members of this group have since gone 
their separate ways; perhaps they inspired others 
in Madagascar to keep their struggling concertina 
tradition alive. 




For more information on indigenous South 
African concertina music, see Harry Scurfield's 
article entitled "The Black Concertina Tradition 
of South Africa: A Brief Outline," in Papers of 
the International Concertina Association, Vol. 2, 


Sotho concertina: T. Makala, Tsbetla and 
Kroonstad, Gallotone GB1604.Y591. 1940s 

Squashbox recordings: 

Squashbox: Zulu, Soto and Xhosa Concertina- 
1930-65, Silex Records, Gentilly France, ASIN: 
B000AQI740, 1993. Superb recordings; sadly 
now out of print. 

Johnny Clegg and Sipho Mchunu, Duo Juluka, 
World Music Network WDR 9 54.036, 1992. 

South A frica Music Archive Project: recordings 
of Zulu, Sotho and Xhosa concertina players of 
the 1940s and 1950s. Sound samples online at 

Busi Mhlongo, Urbanzulu, MELT BW 2118, 
2000. Vocal and concertina. 

Gumboot dancing: Gumboot Guitar, Topic 
TSCD 923, 2003. Various artists, with some 

Maskanda: Introducing Shiyani Ngcobo, World 
Music Network EsTTRO OICD, 2004. 

Various South African groups: Iduma Lya 
Gebuza: Metal Reeds in Africa. Concertina, 
Melodeon and Harmonica, Folktracks 45-815, 
1976. Compiled by Peter Kennedy from 1950s 
field recordings. 

Copy rig hied material 

Ghana and West Africa Highlife: George 
Williams Aingo, 19 27 -Roots of Highlife, 
Heritage, 1992. Recorded originally in the years 
1927 to 1928 in the UK on the Zonophone label. 


The Music of Madagascar, Yazoo, via 
Shanachie, Newton, New Jersey, ca.l994. 
Reissue of old recordings of the 1930s, various 
groups, some concertina. 

Tarika Sammy, Fcmfody, Green Linnet records, 
1993. Modem Malagasy group with some 

The Concertina in Africa 


' Michael Oliver West, The Rise of an African Middle 
Class: Colonial Zimbabwe, 1898-1965 (Bloomington: 
Indiana University Press, 2001), pp. 25-29. See 

^ Lady Duff Gordon, Letters from the Cape (1869), 
available at several online libraries, including Project 

^ Marjory Kennedy, David Kennedy, the Scottish 

Singer: Reminiscences of his Life and Work (London: 

Alfred Gardiner, 1887), pp. 245-246. 

'* Gwynne Schrire and Hillel Turok, "History of 

Camps Bay," Cape Town, 

^ The Countess Howe, ed.. The Imperial Yeomanry 

Hospitals in South Africa, 1901-1902 (London: Arthur 

L. Humphreys, 1902), p. 216. 

^ "Boers great dancers," Omaha Daily Bee (Nebraska), 

December 14, 1899, p. 4. 

' J. R. Couper, Mixed Humanity (Natal: J.C. Juta & 
Co., 1892), p. 36. The quote is taken from Harry 
Scurfield, "The Black Concertina Tradition of South 
Africa, a brief outline," Papers of the International 
Concertina Association, vol. 2 (2005), p. 22. 

William F. Butler, The Life of Sir George Pomeroy- 
Colley 1835-1881 (London: John Murray, Albemarle 
Street, 1899), p. 132. 

^ Jan Bouws, as quoted by Denis Martin, Coon 
Carnival: New Year in Cape Town, Past to Present 
(Cape Town: New Africa Books, 1999), p. 97. 
'° Johnny Clegg, "The music of Zulu immigrant 
workers in Johannesburg: a focus on concertina and 
guitar," Papers Presented at the Symposium on 
Ethnomusicology, International Library of African 
Music, Grahamstown, (1980). Also see Janet Topp- 
Fargion, liner notes to Giunboot Guitar, Topic 
Records CD TSCD923 (2003). 
" Nigel Woorden, E. van Heyningen, Vivian 
Bickford-Smith, Cape Town, The Making of a City: 
An Illustrated Social History (Cape Town: Uitgeverij 
Verloren, 1998), p. 194. 
'^The old image appears in the South African 
Illustrated Times, October 11, 1884, and in Denis 
Martin, Coon Carnival: New Year in Cape Town, Past 
to Present (Cape Town: New Africa Books, 1999), p. 

Ibid., Denis Martin, p. 80. Much of the information 
in the preceding two paragraphs has its source in 
Martin's book. 

" "Coon," The Irish Times, Friday, March 4, 1938. 
Denis Martin, 1999, p. 89. 


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The Anglo-German Concertina 

"Robbie Jansen, The Cape Doctor," Cape Jazz 

Henry Birchenough, Report on the Present Position 
and Future Prospects of British Trade in South Africa, 
(London: His Majesty's Stationery Office, 1903), p. 

Beatrice M. Hicks, The Cape as I Have Found It 
(London: Elliot Stock, 1900), p.l29. 

Clement Handley, Briton, Boer, and Black, or Ten 
Years Hunting, Trading and Prospecting in South 
Africa (London: T. Sealy Clark, 1906), p. 178. 

Fred C. Cornell, The Glamour of Prospecting 
(London: T. Fisher Unwin Ltd., 1920), pp. 138-139. 

Lennox van Onselen, Trekboer (Cape Town: 
Howard Simmons, 1961), pp. 62-65. In English. 

"Work in South Africa," The Sunday Teacher 's 
Treasury for 1868 (London: William Macintosh, 
1868), p. 331. 

A. R. E. Burton, Cape Colony Today (Cape Town: 
Townshend, Taylor and Shashall, 1907), pp. 197-198. 

David Coplan, Township Tonight (London: 
Longman, 1985), p. 24. Also see Harry Scurfield, 
"The Black Concertina Tradition of South Africa: A 
Brief Outline," Papers of the International Concertina 
Association, vol. 2 (2005), p. 23. 

Frederic Perry Noble, The Redemption of Africa: A 
Story of Civilization, with Maps, Statistical Tables and 
Select Bibliography of the Literature of African 
Missions (Chicago: Fleming Revell and Co., 1899), 
pp. 389-390. 

^^Glen Lyndon Dodds, The Zulus and Matabele: 
Warrior Nations (Arms and Armour, 1998). Also see 
"Lobengula," in Wikipedia. 

Letter, Blanche Burnham to John Blick, June 22, 
1893, as quoted in D. Smith, "Colonial encounters and 
music in South Africa," International Review of the 
Aesthetics and Sociology of Music, Croatian 
Musicological Society, v. 33, no. 1 (2002), p. 50. 

George Newnes, ed.. The Strand Magazine, an 
Illustrated Monthly, Vol XIII, Janurary to June, 1897 
(London: George Newnes Ltd., 1897), p. 508. 

Guy Hayler, The Prohibition Movement (Newcastle 
Upon Tyne: North England Temperance League, 
1897), p. 139. 

Thomas Pakenham, The Boer War (New York, 
Random House, 1979). Thanks to Daniel Hersch for 
the reference. 

"Civilization and the Zulu," The Times, September 
30, 1924, p. XV. 

Bongeni Mthethwa, personal communication with 
Harry Scurfield, "Squashbox, the Concertina of South 



Africa," Concertina and Squeeze box Magazine, no. 25 
(1991), p. 30. 

David Bellin Coplan, In the Time of Cannibals: the 
Word Music of South Africa 's Basotho Migrants 
(Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994). 

"Maud Powell, America's musical future," //ew 
York Tribune, June 26, 1910. 

Todd Matshikiza, With the Lid Off: South African 
Insights from Home and Abroad 1959-2000 
(Johannesburg: Jacana Media, 2000), pp. 64-65. 
^ Johnny Clegg, op. cit. As quoted by Harry 
Scurfield, op. cit. 

David Gardiner, posting at Ihe, Member's Forum, 
May 22, 2007, http:// 

"Marriage in Basuto hand," Akron Weekly Pioneer 
Press (Colorado), May 4, 1923. 

David Coplan, Township Tonight (London: 
Longman, 1985), p. 24. As quoted by Harry Scurfield, 

David Coplan, In the Time of Cannibals (University 
of Chicago Press, 1994), p. 186. 

Laurie Levine, The Drumcafe 's traditional music of 
South Africa (Johannesburg: Jacana Media, 2005), p. 

Ibid., p. 133. 


*^ Ibid., p. 193. 

Carol A. Muller, Focus: Music of South Africa 
(New York: Routledge, 2008), p. 131. Other 
information in this section came from her other book 
of 2008, Music of South Africa, Routledge, second 

Dr. Janet Topp-Fargion, ed., Gumboot Guitar, 
Topic CD. TSCD923 (2003). 

Louise Meintjes, 2007 interview "The Zulu Factor," 
http:// Her book is Sound of Africa! 
Making Music in a South African Studio (Durham: 
Duke University Press, 2003). 

Carol A. Muller, Focus: Music of South Africa, 
(2008), p. 29. 
'"'Ibid., pp. 114-115. 


Ibid, p. 119. 

Louise Meintjes, "The Zulu Factor," Interview with 
Banning Eyre, Durham North Carolina (2007), online 

Charles Hamm, Putting Popular Music in Its Place 
(Cambridge University Press, 2006). p. 141. 


Ibid., p. 166. 

Hairy Scurfield, "The Black Concertina Tradition of 
South Africa, a brief outline," Papers of the 
International Concertina Association, vol. 2 (2005), p. 


Ibid., p. 20. 


Copy rig hied material 

The Concertina in Africa 

Harry Scurfield, personal communication with the 
author, 2009. 

Harry Scurfield, Squashbox: Le Concertina Zoulou 
et Sotho en Afrique du Sud: Silex Memoire, France, 




Rev. C. A. Gollmer, "The Ishagga Church," The 
Coral Missionary Magazine (London: James Nisbet & 
Co., 1860), p. 110. 

"Africa," The Congregationahst (Boston, MA), July 
27, 1881, p.2. 

Thomas Wright, The Life of Sir Richard Burton 
(New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1906), p. 187. 

Thomas Wright, The Life of Sir Richard Burton, pp. 

Herman Soyaux, ^ms West-Afrika (Leipzig: F. U. 
Broadhaus, 1879), Translation is from Peter Fryer, 
Rhythms of Resistance: African musical heritage in 
Brazil (Wesleyan University Press, 2000), p. 159. 
" John Whitford, 1877, Trading Life in West and 
Central Africa (Liverpool: The "Porcupine" Office, 
1877), pp. 317-318. 

^ A. B. Ellis, West African Islands (London: 

Chapman and Hall, 1885), pp. 131-135. 

John Storm Roberts, Black Music of Two Worlds 
(New York: Praeger, 1972), p. 241. 

Christopher Alan Waterman, ,//(///.' a social history 
and ethnography of an African popular music 
(Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1990), p. 46. 

Philip M. Peek and Kwesi Yarkah, African folklore: 
an encyclopedia (Taylor & Francis, 2004), p. 275. 

Simon Frith, ed.. World music, politics and social 
change: papers from the International Association for 
the Study of Popular Music (Manchester University 
Press, 1991), p. 27. 


Ibid., p. 275. 

John CoWms, Musicmakers of West Africa (Boulder: 
Lynne Rienner Publishers, 1985), p. 15. 
ISBN 0894100750, 9780894100758 

Walter Montagu Kerr, The Far Interior: A 
Narrative of Travel and Adventure (London: Sampson 
Low, Marston, Searle and Rivington, 1887), p. 134. 

"Our Wants Column," Universities Mission to 
Central Africa (London), December 1, 1884, p. 204. 

Hermann Wissmann, 1 892, as quoted by Johannes 
Fabian, Out of Our Minds: Reason and Madness in the 
Exploration of Central Africa (Universitat Frankfurt 
am Main, Frobenius-Institut, published by University 
of California Press, 2000), p. 1 12. 

Sir Harry H. Johnston, British Central Africa, an 
Attempt to Give an Account of the Territories Under 

British Influence North of the Zambezi (London: 
Methuen and Co., 1898), p. 468. 

Bertram Mitford, John Ames, Native Commissioner 
(London: F.V. White & Co., 1900), p. 130. 

Adolf Friedrich, From the Congo to the Nile, An 
Account of the German Central African Expedition of 
1910-1911 (Philadelphia: John Winston Co., 1914), p. 

Louis Seymour Bazett Leakey, Kenya: Contrasts 
and Problems (London: Methuen and Company, 
1936), p. 140. Also see Mary Aline Bradshaw Buxton, 
Kenya Days (London: Edward Arnold, 1927), p. 48. 

Stuart Eydmann, Life and Times of the Concertina 
(2006), http:// 

Bennet Burleigh, Two Campaigns, Madagascar and 
Ashantee (London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1896), p. 61. 
*° C. Keller, Madagascar, Mauritius, and the Other 
East-African Islands (London: Swan Sonnenschein & 
CO., 1901), pp. 73-74. 

"Madagascar — Musiques de la Cote et des Hants 
Plateaux: Anthologie 1929-1931 (CD), produced by 
Henri Lecomte, Fremeaux & Associes recording 
company, France. 

Cliff Furnald, "Malagasy Magic," ^A'''^^"-^"'^"^ 
Reviews, volume 3 (1996), 

Ian Anderson, "Gitara Gasy!" originally published 
m Folk Roots (1998), now available online at 


Jon Pareles, "Tcirika Sammy Symphony Space," 
Pop and Jazz in Review, New York Times, May 13, 


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The Anglo-German Concertina 

Figure \.A City of Melbourne Solicitor, by Samuel Thomas Gill, painted during the interval 1852-1855 as part of a number 
of sketches of Victoria. This is the oldest known portrait of a concertina player in Australia, and quite possibly the earliest 
portrait of anyone anywhere playing a German concertina. The blind musician holds a two row Uhlig-style German 
concertina, in the streets of Melbourne. These instruments began to arrive in the early 1850s, and were inexpensive enough 
that blind street musicians could afford them. The drawing is reminiscent of Millais' The Blind Girl, painted in Scotland in 
1856 (Chapter 1, Fig. 27). That painting too depicts street begging with a concertina. With thanks to Bob Bolton. 


Chapter 7. The Concertina in Australia 

So off we went on the wallaby track, 
And down to the Riverina, 
There 's Jack with the fiddle, 
And Tom with the flute. 
And Paddy the concertina. 

—Paddy Doolin' 

Introduction and Background 

Preceding chapters have described how each 
country's social situation and the grand events of 
the day profoundly influenced the playing of 
German and Anglo-German concertinas during 
the late -nineteenth-century heyday of these 
instruments. In England, the German concertina's 
popularity in the countryside occurred during a 
period of widespread rural poverty. That poverty, 
the result of deepening agricultural decline, drove 
hundreds of thousands to the cities, where some 
of the displaced became street musicians. In 
Ireland, popular attachment to the inexpensive 
German concertina occurred in a time of both 
rural poverty and foreign occupation, and it is not 
surprising that many sightings of it involve 
emigration or protest. 

Australia presented a different setting for 
these instmments. A vast, empty land in the 
middle of the nineteenth century, the country was 
brimming with opportunity and had an economy 
that was rapidly expanding. Although immigrants 
typically arrived poor, the options for 
employment and self-employment were much 
better than those of the British Isles that most of 
them had left behind. Australia, however, was a 
land with great rural isolation for early settlers. 
The need for social contact in an isolated 
environment fostered a strong tradition of rural 
social dances in which the concertina was a 
favored instrument. Many middle and late 
nineteenth century immigrants came to Australia 
because of the allure of gold mining, and the gold 
rush began nearly at the same time as the 
beginning of importation of German concertinas. 

Miners established many new towns and 
cities in southeastern Australia, and brought with 
them the trappings of urban life familiar to 
England: the singing of popular songs in pubs, in 
the streets, in music halls; social dancing in 
saloons and public halls; and the musical efforts 
of various temperance groups that worked with 
rough and tumble miners. In all of these musical 
activities, German and Anglo-German 
concertinas were prominent. Although the 
concertina entered into the same general early 
twentieth century decline that was experienced in 
England, Ireland, and elsewhere, players who 
lived in the bush, the mining camps, and the 
cities left a strong musical legacy. Thanks to a 
vigorous bout of music collection by late 
twentieth century folklorists from surviving 
players of the earlier heyday of the instrument, 
Australia today still maintains a robust traditional 
music and dance movement. 

A brief review of Australia's history may be 
helpful to those not famiUar with the nation- 
continent. Australia was initially populated by 
the hunter-gatherer peoples now known 
collectively as Aborigines, some tens of 
thousands of years ago. European discovery by 
the Dutch occurred in 1606, and the British took 
possession of the eastern half of Australia in 
1770. Initially settled through the penal colony of 
New South Wales, other Crown colonies 
established in the nineteenth century included 
Queensland, Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia, 
and Western Australia (Figure 2). An 
independent Commonwealth consisting of these 
ex-colonies plus the Northern Territory was 
formed in 1901.^ 


Copy rig hied material 

The Anglo-German Concertina 


f \ 

I Territory 

Western Australia 


South Australi? 







1000 km 


Figure 2. Index map, Australia. 

An initial Aboriginal population of about 
350,000 in the late eighteenth century 
precipitously declined during the colonial period, 
principally due to infectious diseases that 
accompanied European settlement, but also — as 
in other areas of European expansion into 
populated indigenous areas around the world — 
by massacre and forcible removal. Early 
immigrants were primarily of British and Irish 
origin, joined later by lesser numbers of Italians, 
Germans, Chinese, and Greeks. By the middle of 
the nineteenth century, as the concertina arrived 
in Australia, the colonies' combined population 
stood at about 400,000, spread over a vast area."^ 

The discovery of payable gold in 1851 in 
New South Wales, following several sightings of 
the mineral in the colony the previous decade, 
resulted in the country's first inland settlement at 
Bathurst. Further discoveries followed shortly 
thereafter at Warrandyte, Ballarat, and Bendigo 
Creek, all in Victoria. The gold finds in 
southeastern Australia ushered in a gold rush and 
rapidly increased immigration. By 1871 the 
population had jumped to 1.4 million Australians 
and by 1900 there were nearly four million, 
compared with a present-day population of about 
twenty-one million.'* 

Gold discoveries helped open up the 

Australian interior for 
farming, grazing, and the 
production of wool. In the 
districts within a sixty-mile 
radius of Mudgee, New 
South Wales — located to the 
northwest of and interior to 
Sydney, and north of the 
gold discoveries near 
Bathurst — are the birthplaces 
of a large number of early- 
to-middle twentieth-century 
concertina players who were 
recorded by folk music 
collectors: Fred Holland of 
Mudgee; Walter Allen of 
Home Rule; Albert "Dooley" 
Chapman of Coborrah; Jim 
Lyons and Fred Large of the 
Ulan/Cooks Gap area; Clem 
O'Neal of Ironbark (now 
Stuart Town); Susan Colley and concertina 
builder John Stanley of Bathurst; and Doddy 
Murphy of The Lagoon, near Bathurst. Most of 
these players came from rural agricultural 
backgrounds and had parents who were also 
native Australians. It is tempting to conclude that 
the region around Mudgee had the richest 
concentration of concertina players in Australia, 
but concertina playing was endemic throughout 
the country. In particular, the Nariel Valley area 
of northeastern Victoria was the home of several 
other early-twentieth-century players, such as 
Con Klippel, Jim Harrison, and Charlie Ordish. 

Despite its "outback" mystique, Australia 
today is an increasingly urban culture, with fully 
89 percent of its population living in cities and 
over 80 percent of its population living within 
100 kilometers of the coast.^ Interior areas 
remain at relatively low population densities, as 
they were in the late nineteenth century. 
Concertina and folk dance revival activities of 
the mid-to-late twentieth century began primarily 
in the large coastal cities. 


The Concertina in Australia 

Arrival and Marketing of tfie Concertina 

The English system concertina was the first 
to arrive in Australia. An advertisement in the 
Sydney Gazette of March 23, 1841, mentions an 
auction by a Mr. Blackman of, among other 
items, "a very superior concertina, the only one 
in the colony." A "rosewood concertina, with 
instructions" was auctioned in Hobart, Tasmania 
on February 5, 1851; this was probably also an 
English concertina.'' English concertinas in these 
decades were typically sold singly at auction, as 
they were expensive, handmade instruments. 

German and French companies had been 
mass-marketing accordions, flutinas, and other 
musical instruments since the invention of the 
accordion in Austria in 1829. The Demian 
accordion was sold in Sydney as early as 1833, 
where merchant T. B. Humphrey sold goods 
unloaded from the merchant ship Lousch from 
London. Those goods included "an entirely new 
and compact instrument called the Accordion, a 
perfect knowledge of which may be obtained in a 
very few hours as the instructions are very 
simple. T. B. Humphrey has but a few of the 
above instruments for sale."^ 

Perth merchant C.F. Clarkson carried "flutes 
and fifes, accordions, tamborenes (sic)" as early 
as 1842.^ Hobart, Sydney, and Perth merchants 
stocked accordions and flutinas, along with 
German-made violins, flutes, fifes, and music 
boxes, throughout the 1840s. WhaUng and 
merchant ships transported them as bulk trade 
goods to neighboring New Zealand at least as 
early as 1843 (see Chapter 8). 

The German concertina joined this flood of 
relatively inexpensive, mass-marketed German 
musical instruments to Australia by 1852, at 
about the same time that it arrived in Ireland, 
South Africa, New Zealand, and the United 
States. An advertisement in the Hobart Courier 
of January 10, 1852, lists an instrument for sale 
by C. Jones, a jeweler (Figure 3). A rival 
merchant in Hobart, "Messrs. Hobart and Ivey," 
highlighted German concertinas in an 
advertisement of 1853 (Figure 4). They arrived in 
Brisbane, Queensland by 1854, where a "Mr. 
Humby, Professor of Music" offered a "fresh 
supply of Musical Instruments, amongst which 

will be found a variety of that highly favoured 
and beautiful instrument both for public and 
private entertainment, the GERMAN 
CONCERTINA, which Mr. H. professes to teach 
in three lessons" (Figure 5). The availability of a 
variety of models of German concertina (see 
Chapter 1) is apparent in this advertisement. The 
instrument met with instant popularity. 

itovEOB or 

C. jrOKEB. 



RESPECTFULLY lans lo iBllmitc id 
bii p«trui» iliat ba bn HEMOVEI) fall 
bukism In ibe nmniM* U(e In lb* (Keunmhia ur 
Di. n. Curq*, TWO DOOHS BELOW bli 
ronner midHoe, mhm ba h«g« i cantluiuiMe at 
Ibu pamiiane nbioh ba bna bUhcrlfl inalrrd 
ttaia bU filaiiU and Uia rubila. C, JoKka hiii 
Jiiu rMrircd m. SPLEN'PID AMSORI'Ml^Vf 
«ini>UUn( of ((Did, tllTcr, ahd lialf bratrloti \ 
Caman, mounituir, and % rarietr d( lume and 
aikar braaeliw j diamond, caieruld. rnlij, pearl, 
and akfnct ringa; ladlfi' and irFiitlciDou'a nuld 
cbaloi and panell-evwt) liii and lnuMiine nuii- 
ea] boxet I Qermaii and Fiencb accndiona, 
lalliiaa, and oobMninaa ; wax dolii wiib mnting 
•|aa.a«4 • rarMf of 0«nua Ivfi Ml tax boltday 
preuais. C. J«kkc baa uii baud a ttw pal» uf 
XOXKlat or aya-jirewrreni, laitablv tat narlieg 
«bo intend lo " blgpa" fur Iba Odd-ldda in 
Vk-lnrta. 77 

Figure 3. An early advertisement for German and French 
accordions, flutinas and concertinas , from the Hobart 
Tasmania Coi^ner of January 10, 1852. 

TUBSBDAT, 9tm MASCfl. ] 
(7arRM C<motr^m»», Time-pUetm, 

MESSRS. "hay «c ivey 

will Bell iTf Pnblle AimUm, 
On TUESDAT. Ikh Ifmrcb, at It o'ala«b, 
At Utair Bsoaaa, Eliaabaib (tn«M> 

Doiita[nlii|( — 
VI»Hii», FiaUnaa, Curnnpmna, Flam, G«- 
anan Cunserdaaa. Tlnia-plem, Ladhrn' 
■nd Oantlmtaa'a Dr«n1ii(-eaaea, Work- 
^■••< Cblmaa; OmaaiVDU, Inkatanda, 


A lacs* Tarirtj at PANCV ARTICLES, too 
nnnamm taw ik> Mmlxrn at mm ad**fil-<Ri«iit, bat 
•III h* tiMj dwnilwd lit anialofvaa la b* laatMd 
priitr In lbs aula. 

T»rma — Abota C3S ihna naorntba' ar«dll on 
■ppr«**d Ulla, gtfo 

Figure 4. Advertisement for German concertinas, from the 
Hobart Tasmania Courier of February 28, 1853. 


The Anglo-German Concertina 

M K. H U M B Y, 

r R o F v. S K <> It t> F M r S 1 c, 

HAViyn jiiililid/ intHKlinH'd MuMcfnto Mure- 
tun JIttV, *uU'tiriiii{ Hlill Jt'ttinm* orcullivii- 
ting « la^in iur tlml il^H^htfiil ai^fi>iii)i!ii>lMnPni. 

lo in.>iillttilJt ibr inti«ljif«MU tli»t Jit? ju«t 
rpwivikl, iH-r IkiiMiH-ratiji, n lnri<« n<i«irtineiit of 
IIOMi: Mt"'!U: niiJ « ni MUSU'AI. 

I VSTIIL'MKN I S. uiiif»ri<p<t. wdicli «ril! U> fuuml a 
varivlv of tli«t liiijlilv luvonml and Lf»LUif)il 
InKtriitnciit both Inr polilio in>il nrivato jntfrtain- 
menl, tb* fSKItM.I N t (»S€j:i:'riNA, whkh Sir. 
H. nrurc'ies to imcIi in tlinre lr<iiMiii^. 

Al*o a r(>ri fleiiniit UaKMONIL'M, and » v^rr 
powerful MTSIfAL U0\, piUvlntf iiio»t uf tlie 

Figure 5. Advertisement for sales of and instruction on 
the German concertina, from the A/oreton Bay Courier 
of Brisbane, Queensland, October 21, 1854. 

It seems appropriate that the German 
concertina's first recorded appearance in 
Australia was in front of a group of diggers 
(miners) in the fresh, raw town of Ballarat, 
Victoria. Gold was discovered there in 1851, and 
the city was bom overnight in the gold rush that 
followed. The diggers had built a rough log 
theatre and held their first public concert in 
November 1852, sporting an orchestra composed 

[T]he inevitable banjo, the tambourine, the 
violin, the concertina and triangle. They were 
not the best instruments in their class, and 
perhaps did not "discourse most eloquent 
music, " but it was "a sort of harmony" of sounds 
to the audience, and that sufficed. ^ 

A full description of this event appears in 
the section on miners, below. That the concertina 
played was an inexpensive German one seems 
clear from the description that the instruments 
played by the rough miners were "not the best in 
their class." 

The German concertina was the clear choice 
of graziers, shepherds, and others in AustraUa's 
rural working classes. In 1859, a shopkeeper 
wrote to the Australian Advertiser, Adelaide 
South Australia, to complain against the "truck 
system," whereby some station owners (a station 
is comparable to an American ranch) sought to 
force their workers to buy only from their own 

stores. It gives an early example of the popularity 
of the instrument with those in the outback: 

A shepherd in the employ of a sheep farmer in the 
north had an exceeding taste for music, was very 
desirous of purchasing a concertina from me, 
one which he appeared to take a decided fancy 
to, but not having any money on him, although he 
had upwards of half a years ' wages due him at 
the time; but knowing that his employer had laid 
it down as a rule, that he would cash no orders 
for any "dealers, " wrote a polite note, begging 
that as it was an article he could not always 
obtain, he woidd confer a great favor by cashing 
the order in this single instance, but the order 
was returned with contempt. . . . Now Mr. Editor, 
is this free dealing, or free trade, in a free land? I 
think not.'" 

As would be expected in a fairly vibrant 
economy, many of those who strongly favored 
the German system concertina soon purchased 
improved Anglo-German models. In Melbourne, 
Victoria, they were being sold by 1 867: 

tone, greatest durability. Testimonials from 
greatest living performers. 91 Swanston-street.'' 

Both German and Anglo-German 
concertinas arrived from London in bulk, packed 
in cases. A shipping notice from Brisbane in 
1875 noted that the Ex Stormy Petrel, a barque 
from London, brought, as part of its cargo, "1 
package 20-key organ, Celeste, and Anglo- 
German concertinas."'" Lachenal models were 
imported by the case; Brisbane shipping notices 
of September 19, 1877, noted that the Ex 
Windsor Castle, a ship from London, carried 
among many other things, "two cases Lachnell's 
[sic] Anglo-German concertinas."'^ Anglo- 
German concertinas sold at the Barnard and Ivors 
store in Melbourne in 1881 fetched "from 2s 6d 
to 12s 6d each."'^ By 1895, 20-key Lachenal 
Anglo-German concertinas were available in 
Brisbane for 35s, the same price as 48-key 
Lachenal English system concertinas.'^ An 
advertisement from Brisbane in 1892 shows that 


Copynghled material 

The Concertina in Australia 

W. II. I'AHNO * CO.. T.mrTcp, 
W. H. i'AMN« A- CUV. U^iTKr, 
W. U. I'ALIMt t CO., fjixiiiD, 





trONCf HI'lXArt 



At At! Pricof, 

^^^<^ t Fiuinh 







CUNt'KUriyAH MulHVanr 
COM KHTlMAKI Hnnxiiioil. 
CflNCKKTINiAH 'V,'|tLiwM<'t«] 
CX>Nt"KKTISA» »nt| 
COMCKUTIMAH lst«<1 He«li. 





CON C K. BT 1 S A fl, 
go unit OA Ki'yii 

tmaA lot fult tutntcuUn. 

Figure 6. Advertisement for Lachenal concertinas, 
which were imported in bulk in the late nineteenth 
century. The Brisbane Courier, March 19, 1892. 

Lachenal instruments were readily available in a 
variety of styles (Figure 6). 

Tobacco stores also were merchants of the 
German concertina. An 1872 photograph of one 
such shopkeeper's storefront in the goldfields 
town of Gulgong, New South Wales shows 
several two-row German concertinas in the 
window (Figures 7 and 8). Another such 
"sighting" of concertinas in a tobacconist's 
window is from Perth in 1899, where tobacconist 
James Washington was charged with after-hours 
sales of musical instruments under the Early 
Closing Act: 

The defendant stated that he carried on business 
as a tobacconist and hairdresser only. He had 
only two accordions and a concertina in the 

Mr. Roe: Do you require them in the 
hairdressing line? 

Mr. Durston: The hairdressing is done to musical 

The court did not buy that argument. 

Concertinas were popular prizes at arcades 
and at competitions. At the Sydney Exhibition of 
1877, a correspondent groused that "there are 
stalls where you can take a shilling chance for a 
concertina or some other miserable weapon of 
discord, which stalls are permitted under the title 
of 'Art Distributions,' but have a suspicious 
resemblance to raffles.""' In Perth, at a 
competition of "Metropolitan Rifle Volunteers" 
in 1878, a concertina was a second prize given to 
Private George Snowball.'^ 

With brisk sales of both German and Anglo- 
German concertinas in Australia's booming 
mining economy before 1 890, it is inevitable that 
local makers of concertinas would emerge. One 
early concertina maker was a Mr. Kimpton, 
whose shop near the comer of Victoria-parade 
and Smith Street in East Collingwood, a 
Melbourne suburb, was destroyed by fire in 
1877.'^ Nothing else is known of his work. 

A much more prominent concertina player, 
repairer, and builder was John Stanley (ca. 1 834- 
1913), the "Concertina Doctor" of Bathurst 
(Figure 9); his son was interviewed by folklorist 
John Meredith in the 1950s, and his story was 
summarized in the Australian Concertina 
Magazine in 1982.'^ Stanley came to Australia in 
1853 as part of the gold rush. Not finding his 
own "mother lode," he worked as a barman and 
cattle drover before settling in Bathurst. He 
played the English concertina and was in 
frequent demand at local dances. He repaired the 
instrument himself, and soon took on repair jobs 
from others. By the 1860s he had a business in 
his home, with a large sign reading "J Stanley- 
Concertina Doctor." Repairs soon led to 
construction. Stanley imported some parts from 
Lachenal's in England and made others locally. 


The Anglo-German Concertina 

Figure 7. McGinley's Paramatta Tobacco Depot, Gulgong New South Wales, 1872. 
Note the German concertinas in the shop window. Photograph from the Holtermann 
Collection, courtesy of the Mitchell Library, Sydney. 


The Concertina in Australia 

Figure 8. Enlargement of a portion of the previous figure, 
sfiowing four two-row German concertinas and a concertina- 
like instrument of unknown type, amongst a display of cigars. 
With thanks to Bob Bolton. 

Figure 9. John Stanley, the "Concertina Doctor" of 
Bathurst, ca. 1 900. From the photographic archive of the 
National Library of Australia. 

Figure 1 0. Two-row Anglo-German concertina built by John 
Stanley. Photograph by John Meredith, in the Archives of the 
National Library of Australia. 


The Anglo-German Concertina 

Stanley built both English and Anglo- 
German concertinas, but the latter were 
reportedly by far the most popular; these sold for 
£2 10s in the 1870s. His son estimated that they 
built about 500 concertinas before closing the 
shop circa 1900. One of his Anglo-German 
instruments is shown in Figure 10. Inscribed in 
the fretwork ends of the instrument are the words 
"J. Stanley-Bathurst." Stanley advertised his 
concertinas as being especially loud, a 
characteristic that was valued at dances. 

Even though higher-quality Anglo-German 
concertinas were available by the 1 860s and were 
not uncommon (especially among those who 
played professionally for dances), the most 
commonly purchased concertinas in the late- 
nineteenth-century heyday of the instrument were 
two-row German concertinas, of the sort shown 
in the tobacco window in Figure 8 as well as a 
1907 catalog from a Sydney musical instrument 
seller. Figure 11. In use, these inexpensive 
German instruments did not last long; hence their 
relative absence in present-day antique 
instrument markets. 

Clem O'Neal (1912-1980), of Iron Bark, 
now Stuart Town, New South Wales, described 
the concertina supply in the area where he grew 
up. He first played a 20-key German concertina: 

They were big mostly, and made in Germany. 
They 'd big keys spread fairly wide apart and 
bellows made of cardboard, and all sorts of fancy 
coloured papers and the whole thing was 
decorated all out with golden eagles 

Better Anglo-German concertinas from 

Lachenal were occasionally available, as was 
mentioned above. Of these, O'Neal said: 

They had leather bellows, with smaller keys. 
Some of these had quite a lot of keys which no 
one used and they were referred to as half notes; 
some had 30 or 40 keys. People just played the 
usual 20 keys because the other keys were quite 
foreign to them.^^ 

English concertinas were not played in the 
area near O'Neal. The only one he ever saw was 

purchased as a curiosity in an auction, in the late 
1930s or 1940s: 

My father took it and we all looked at it. There 
were still some concertina players around at the 
time, and they all looked at it, and apart from not 
being able to play it, we never found out how to 
hold it at all. My father decided that it wasn't a 
concertina, or that it may have been a concertina 
and someone had pulled it to pieces and couldn't 
remember how to put it back, and then put the 
notes in and closed it up. He did think of putting 
a strap on it, and to use an Australian term, he 
said, "The notes are all over the bloody place " 
and that, "You wouldn't be able to play it if you 
put two straps on it. " So we abandoned the 

So much for the English concertina in the bush! 
They were to be more commonly found in the 
cities, where they were used especially in parlor 
music and on stage. 


Copy rig hied material 

The Concertina in Australia 




Si<. 919- 

Na.915.- -.11 kfji., KlKMio#d rw. Stckfl trl'-niiin:'*. -omi 
txiii iH^l-. uithaiil itniible Kcllov -. 

No. 910 3»I«U', bril Willi I! mck.-J -.iU-il|.lr lK-llt-«-. tln'l ' 

Gilt ITIfllM IPt- IMlUl.'-. 

No. 033. • 20 hc/». iniii4tion Rosewood. ^^uitJ tnimjict! 
A foldi, pUin. 

No. SID. 

So. ■.C&.--2e kfyi. r*H Wfctaui c*M, D*n* ktv;. An«l& Siylc, 

Figure 1 1. Imported German two-row concertinas, from a 1907 catalog by merchants Feldheim, Gotthelf & Co., Sydney. 
With thanks to Peter Ellis and Concertina Magazine, 1986. 

Figure 12. A pioneer woman and her children in a forest clearing, 
The Powerhouse Museum, Sydney. 

Dorrigo District, New South Wales, ca. 1900. Image from 


Copynghled matefial 

The Anglo-German Concertina 

The Concertina in Rural Australian Life 

Immigrants and settlers 

The German concertina was available in 
Australia from the time of its first mass 
manufacture and marketing in the early 1850s, 
and its use grew among existing Australian 
residents at the same time as among arriving 
immigrants. Many of the early-twentieth-century 
players interviewed by folk music collectors in 
the late twentieth century had parents and 
grandparents born in Australia long before the 
concertina was imported. Use of the instrument 
in these famiUes clearly began in Australia. Other 
later-arriving families brought concertinas with 
them. Most late -nineteenth-century immigrants 
came from the United Kingdom and from 
Ireland, both early strongholds of the German 
and Anglo-German concertinas. One such 
immigrant was a young Welshman named 
William Morris Hughes. Hughes, a teacher, had a 
friend who wished to emigrate, but told Hughes 
that he hadn't the money: 

"I'll lend you some, " said Hughes impulsively. 

He went home and out of the lining of an ancient 
concertina he produced thirty shillings, all the 

money he had in the world. He handed this hoard 
over to his new-found friend and promptly forgot 
all about it. He kept on teaching. 

The boy who borrowed the shillings went to 
Australia. Several years later he returned the 
money with the message: "This is a great country 
full of opportunity for a young man. Chuck your 
teaching and come out here. " Hughes went. 
Three months later — it was 1884 — with half a 
crown in his pocket he walked ashore at 

William — more popularly known as 
"Billy"— Hughes (1862-1952) went on to 
become Prime Minister of Australia, serving in 
that post from 1915-1923. 

The Orient was a passenger steamer of the 
Australia route, fuU of unmigrants bound for 


Melbourne circa 1884. One passenger left the 
following record: 

At seven o'clock I go on deck again. It is still very 
wet, and we are evidently going to have a rough 
night — the wind is rising and blowing in black 
gusts, a mist, too, gathers over the sea, and our 
captain — Captain Harrison — orders the anchor 
to be dropped and the engines stopped, and for 
about an hour we are anchored opposite 
Margate. Soon the rain ceases, and the darkness 
gathers over us, and the lights gleam out along 
the shore. We also hoist our lights — a white light 
on the stay of the foremast, a green one on the 
starboard, and a red one on the port-side of the 
ship. Some of the third-class passengers are 
trying to be merry. A concertina is being played, 
and several stout, buxom women are dancing an 
Irish schottische, and by their humorous words 
awaken cries of "Bravo! " in the crowd around.^'' 

Most nineteenth-century immigrants landed 
in established cities like Melbourne or Sydney, 
and then made their way into rural areas to 
prepare their new homes. Port Darwin in the 
Northern Territory was settled in large part by 
southern Australians. An account of an arrival in 
1870 after a long sea voyage shows the situation 
faced by many, as well as the presence of the 
concertina in this most rural of settings at the 

The shores were clothed with masses of rich 
green vegetation down to the water 's edge, and 
the cliffs overspread with thickly growing palms, 
in all the variety one would expect to see so far 
north. Ironbark trees, casuarinas and the bright 
green milkwood tree grew here in great 
luxuriance. . . . At last we came in sight of the 
little settlement; it was situated in a gully on a 
broad tract of level ground between two steeply 
rising hills, having the sea on both sides. The 
camp . . . consisted of a number of log and iron 
houses on either side of the gully. . . . A closer 
view of the camp did not tend to raise our spirits 
to any very exalted elevation — a handful of log 
huts, with crowds of natives looking over our 
heads; and this tiny settlement literally the only 
one in the vast tract of Northern Australia. . . . 

Copy rig hied material 

The Concertina in Australia 

The camp had a great love for music. Nearly all 
the men played the concertina, some were flute- 
players. And surely they all sang! for night after 
night when work was over they assembled under 
a shady tree in the middle of the camp, and a 
regular musical entertainment took place. Each 
man sang his song, either accompanying himself 
with his own concertina, or enUsting the services 
of a chum for this purpose. I could almost give a 
list of the favourite camp melodies. Wait for the 
Turn of the Tide was very popular. The fact of 
Rome Not Being Built in a Day, My Boys 
seemed to encourage their efforts in developing 
the Northern Territory. Paddle Your Own Canoe 
was another favourite song, the chorus always 
taken up lustily by the company: besides the more 
sentimental ballads o/When Other Lips, Her 
Bright Smile Haunts Me Still, and Ever of Thee. 
These were generally sung by a pohce trooper 
who owned a fine tenor voice. It sounded quite 
pretty coming through the stillness of the night; 
the only other sound to be heard was the washing 
of the waves over the shingle at our feet, or the 
wind rustling through the slender leaves of a 
clump of corkscrew palms. ^'^ 

Into the bush, by campfire light 

Australia is a vast place, and stations and 

farming settlements were spread thin in the late 
nineteenth and early twentieth century (Figure 
11). Music and dance were important parts of 
social gatherings, either at bush campfires or in 
house or village dances. From the Warrego 
district, Queensland (inland from Brisbane) in 

[W]e hear from our wandering correspondent "A 
Common Swagman " that a party of men 
travelling with a mob of 15,000 sheep belonging 
to Mr. Govett in the Warrego district wake the 
echoes of the hills every evening with their 
orchestral performances. . . . A passerby [the] 
camp would be surprised to hear, nightly, the 
tones of a very efficient band, and still more at 
the primitive instruments in use. Only one [the 
concertina] probably ever saw the music- 
seller 's. The big drum is represented by the 
water-cask, and sounds at a distance very like the 

former; the "boss " himself affects the kettle- 
drum, in the shape of a discarded tea-bucket; a 
pie-dish does duty for a tambourine; and an 
unused horse-bell beaten with the sharpening- 
steel makes an excellent triangle. There are also 
three tin whistles in camp, and the "doctor" 
represents the cornet-player by emitting guttural 
sounds through the tin funnel used to fill the 
water-bags on a dry stage. ...Itisa noticeable 
fact that the sheep generally camp well during 
the strains of Marching through Georgia, Miss 
M'Cloud's Reel, The Marseillaise, and other 
inspiriting tunes, and the dingoes fail to howl 
while the extempore band is awakening the 
echoes of the Warrego.^^ 

A man travelling on horseback in the inland 
region along the Paroo River in northern New 
South Wales wrote about his journey in 1881, 
when he stayed at a succession of stations and 

I got to Eulo on Christmas morning, and found 
several gentlemen from the neighbouring stations 
assembled to pass their Christmas. They asked 
me to turn out my horses, and the blacksmith 
from the "old place at home " having undertaken 
to find them good feed and have them looked 
after, I consented, and passed a very merry 
Christmas. Two gentlemen of the party 
discoursed sweet music, one on the concertina 
and the other on the violin, and I assure you 
there were less merry Christmases passed than 
we spent at Eulo, on the banks of the Paroo.^^ 

A similar campfire scene, also during the 
Christmas season, was penned by a bush traveler 
at Mario, where the Snowy River meets the sea 
in Victoria, 1886: 

[A] t Mario all the Snowy River people spend 
their Christmas, camping sometimes for days 
among the ti tree. Then, along the river shore, 
numerous tents are pitched — the country folks 
wander about the sands, and children lave in the 
shallow water. . . . The nights are spent by the 
campfires, where the concertina and fiddle are 
made to do good work. Songs are sung, 
recitations given, and the time passes away only 


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The Anglo-German Concertina 

too quickly. There can be nothing more 
interesting to an artist than a camp fire study at 
the mouth of the Snowy, where round a huge pile 
of burning logs some thirty people are gathered 
in a ring, every face assuming new expression in 
the changes and deceits of the fire-light. All are 
happy in themselves and in each other — the 
laughs go round, the songs are enthusiastically 
applauded, children appear fi-om the tents and 
demand encores, while beyond the charmed 
circle looms utter blackness . . . and the beat of 
the ocean booming in the ear. 

An 1880 lithograph shows much the same scene, 
also at Christmas (Figure 13). 

Another traveler recalled, years later, a trip 
along the same Queensland coast during the 
1850s. His narrative gives a first glimpse at the 
depth to which popular minstrel songs from 
America penetrated the Australian countryside; 
more on that later: 

Everett and Tyrell were musical, and either of 
them could sing a good "second, " and the camp 
at night was often enlivened by the strains of a 
small banjo, which the former had, and a 
"Wheatstone " concertina of the latter 's. The wild 
refrain of the Huntsman's Chorus would echo 
amongst the old gum trees, as the lurid hght of 
the camp fire shone on their venerable trunks, 
and Everett could sing, by the score, those dear 
old "n — r songs " (as it is the fashion to call 
them in England), words and melody, alike, racy 
of old Tennessee, fi-om the land of buckwheat 
cakes, and fish chowder, songs that are too good 
to export, and never find their way to London, 
but which you may often hear in New York, or 
' Frisco. 

The instrument Tyrell played was a Wheatstone 
English concertina, in the days before the 
German concertina was widely distributed. 

Figure 13. The Teamster's Christmas Eve, an 1880 lithograph from the collection of the State Library of Victoria. 
Note the concertina player seated by the campfire. 


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The Concertina in Australia 

Memories of music played by a campfire 
exert the same nostalgic yearning in Australia 
that it does on the veldt in South Africa, and on 
the American prairie. Australian poet Henry 
Lawson (1867-1922) wrote a poem in 1891 that 
sums it up well: 

The Good Old Concertina 

'Twas merry when the hut was full 
Of jolly girls and fellows. 
We danced and sang until we burst 
The concertina's bellows. 
From distant Darling to the sea. 
From the Downs to Riverina, 
Has e'er a gum in all the west 
Not heard the concertina? 

'Twas peaceful round the campfire blaze, 
The long white branches o'er us; 
We'd play the tunes of bygone days, 
To some good old bush chorus. 
Old Erin's harp may sweeter be. 
The Scottish pipes blow keener; 
But sing an old bush song for me 
To the good old concertina. 

'Twas cosy by the hut-fire bright 
When the pint pot passed between us; 
We drowned the voice of the stormy night 
With the good old concertina's. 
Though trouble drifts along the years. 
And the pangs of care grow keener. 
My heart is gladdened when it hears 
That good old concertina. 

Social dancing and other bush customs 

The inexpensive German concertina — an 
immediate hit with those living in the isolation of 
the bush — ^found its most common employment 
in playing for social dances. A correspondent 
riding the area in 1860 arrived at "dance-loving, 
scandal-loving Dalby," perhaps 100 miles west 
of Brisbane in Queensland: 

/ was attracted to a spruce-looking house by the 
sounds of music, seeming a cross between 
bagpipes and an old German accordion, but 
which I found proceeded from a concertina, 

played by a dark and surly-looking person . . . to 
which some good-looking girls, and wild 
outlandish looking fellows, including an excitable 
looking butcher, were dancing. They certainly 
deserved a better reward for their perseverance 
than such a cramped room and hideous music, 
but these were almost compensated for by the 
winning smile of the fair hostess.^" 

Norfolk Island is an Australian territory 

several hundred miles to the east of the continent. 
In its early days it was a penal colony, stocked 
with the worst convicts from New South Wales. 
In 1856 it became the home for most of the 
descendants of the HMS Bounty mutineers from 
Pitcairn Island. A great feast, followed by 
dancing celebrated the visit by a man-of-war in 

At eight o 'clock lights were placed in a room . . . 
for the dancing. The young girls that we had seen 
in the morning with only a loose sort of calico 
wrapper reaching down to the knee, and without 
shoes or stockings, now appeared in muslin 
dresses and shoes and stockings. The dances 
were quite peculiar to the island, and baffle 
description. Our music was a very wheezy 
concertina, and the Original Polka served for all 
the dances. At about eleven o 'clock we all sang 
God Save the Queen, and gave her three hearty 
cheers, and then dispersed.^' 

These dances usually were held in whatever 
civic building or hotel was available in small 
settlements and villages. In the small village of 
Newcastle (now called Toodyay), in the Avon 
Valley of Western AustraUa, perhaps fifty miles 
northeast of Perth, in 1875: 

The Settler 's Ball which took place at Leeder 's 
Hotel on Wednesday the 1st September was a 
complete success in every way, nearly eighty 
persons being present on the occasion. The 
music, consisting of harmonium, violin, and 
concertina was good; the refreshments which 
were of the best and most liberally applied, were 
excellent; and dancing, which commenced about 
nine o'clock, was kept up with unflagging spirit, 
until daylight on Thursday morning.^^ 


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The Anglo-German Concertina 

The practice of dancing until daylight, as 
extreme as it sounds today, was common in 
Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa, and 
had a practical reason in addition to its evident 
popularity. Because people came from small 
stations and farms that were spread out for quite 
some distance in the bush, returning in the 
middle of the night was impractical, as the road 
home was difficult to see in the dark (see Chapter 
8, Figure 11, for an illustration of a couple 
returning to their New Zealand station at 
daylight). It was much easier and safer to dance 
all night, and that practice required no lodging, 
which would have, in any event, been in short 

Another report of such an all-nighter is from 
rural Queensland in 1884: 

The leading local event lately looked forward to 
in the neighbourhood was the promised novelty 
of a bachelors ' ball It was inaugurated by the 
Boldens and Patricks, and gallantly supported by 
the large bachelor crew of the district all round 
Fernvale, Northbrook, and Wivenhoe. The 
honorary secretary and stewards worked with a 
hearty goodwill, erecting a most commodious 
marquee in which to hold the supper. Some thirty 
couples responded to their call, and dancing — 
aided by the piano, played by a local fair 
celebrity, the accordion, violin, and concertina — 
was kept up until daylight on Saturday. Duets 
and solos, comic and sentimental, were very 
happily introduced at several periods throughout 
the night, and judging from the universal hilarity 
prevailing among the company, and their parting 
with loyal and hearty cheers for the Queen and 
the ladies it was evident that all enjoyed 
themselves to their hearts ' content. 

Albert George "Dooley" Chapman (1892-1982), 
of Coborrah, New South Wales, played the 
concertina for rural dances in a wide part of his 
district during the first two decades of the 
twentieth century. He recalled another reason for 
all-night dances: 

The dancers, they'd start at eight o'clock. They'd 
go all night, of course. Fd be playing, and Fd get 
a bit of a lunch at half past one, and Fd play on 


until four o 'clock. Because the ladies, or the girls, 
weren't allowed to leave until daylight, the 
breaking day . . . so they wouldn't get away with 

Most iims would have a concertina and its 
resident player, ready for any occasion of 

dancing. In 1875 an inn at Eden Vale, a wine- 
growing area of Southern Australia now known 
as the Eden Valley, was just such a place. 
"[H]igh tea was set in the pretty drawing room, 
which contained several books and ornaments; 
and where, though the almost universal piano 


was wanting, a concertina reigned in its stead." 

Homes were, of course, the place for many a 
dance, just as they were in rural Ireland and 
England. A parson's wife in rural Victoria in 
1877 wrote this of her domestic staff, who 
partook more of terpsichorean delights than she 
and her husband did: 

The kitchen party [his servants] were not at all 
lonely in these wilds. They had friends on the 
neighboring stations and farms, with whom they 
foregathered in their leisure hours; they gave a 
ball every Christmas . . . and were tendered balls 
in return. At ordinary times they seemed 
sufficient for themselves. Sitting in my detached 
house of an evening, I would hear cheerful 
sounds from the other building, and, being 
mysteriously summoned thither, would find my 
groom [stable man] with his concertina, playing 
reels and jigs for the little ones to dance to, the 
dancing-mistresses standing by to enjoy the 
achievements of their pupils and the surprise they 
had prepared for me.^^ 

Many observers and writers of the period, to 
whom we owe these descriptions of rural Hfe, 
were of (or aspired to) the English gentry or its 
Australian equivalent, and were usually quick to 
distinguish the "working classes" from 
themselves. Writing of the isolated out-stations in 
1889 (see Rgure 14), such a writer observed that: 

These miscellaneous station hands are recruited 
from all ranks, all classes, all nationalities. A 

large proportion, as is natural, is composed of 
Australian and district-born men, who gravitate 

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The Concertina in Australia 

by force of early surroundings and inherited 
position to the nearest station . . . It would be 
unfair to deny the claims of the life which they 
elect to lead. To turn out of bed in the cool dawn, 
to breakfast with the spirit of healthy men, to 
mount the fresh and familiar horse and patrol 
alone the leagues of pasture lands where the 
dust-brown sheep in knots of twos and threes 
move, scattered, but with one direction . . . at 
night to return, and after taking the trappings 
from the wearied horse, to enter the hut and chat 
over the meal with the other men, smoke and 
yarn while the musician of the hut extracts 
fragmentary melodies, old and new, sacred and 
profane — Champagne Charlie, and Hold the Fort 
and Golden Slippers, from his concertina, 
accordeon, violin or flute, or while away the hot 
hours with cards till fatigue brings on deep rest; 
it is not altogether repellant. 

Figure 14. An oui-siation. yVu^ualia, 1889. From Thomas Henry's 
Heart of Australia," in Tiie Centennial Magazine, vol II. 

What may have seemed nearly "repellant" to 
that period observer is of course the stuff of 
nostalgia or fantasy for many today. The tiny 
settlement of Yam Creek in the Northern 
Territory, near Darwin, held "grand balls," 
although the grandness was not apparent to some 
country folk in 1878: 

The weak feature of the Palmerston Assemblies 
seems to be the lack of music. When we hear of a 
grand ball, embracing all the rank and fashion of 
the city, and learn afterwards that the band 
consisted of a solitary concertina, our country 
ideas of grandeur become less intensified. Why, I 
know two bullock drivers who play upon that 
mild kind of musical bellows; perhaps they may 
be giving a grand concert one of these days. If I 
were a swell, living in the city, wearing clean 
starched white linen every day, and a pink tie on 
Sundays, I should try and get up a fund to import 
a barrel organ, fitted up expressly for playing 
dance music. 

These rural dances and "grand balls" 
featured a variety of ballroom dance styles of the 
day. The repertoire of noted player Dooley 
Chapman, closely copied from his mentor Billy 
Chandler, reveals the key dances: couples dances 
(also called round dances), like 
waltzes, polkas, mazurkas, 
schottisches, and varsovianas; as 
well as set dances, which consisted 
principally of quadrilles such as the 
Lancers, danced by groups of four 
couples aligned in a square."*^ The 
jigs and reels of Ireland and 
Scotland were not particularly 
common dances in these late 
nineteenth-century social gather- 
ings. Although perhaps more 
common in the early settlement 
days, they had begun to be replaced 
among native Australians by more 
fashionable closed-couples dances 
when the concertina arrived in the 
1850s. The very few references to 
English country dances indicate that 
they had also faded in most parts of 
England by the late nineteenth century (see 
Chapter 2). The Sir Roger de Coverley (also 
known as the Virginia Reel), and the Circassian 
Circle were exceptions, although these dances 
have become more popular in late nineteenth- 
century revivals of "bush dances.""^" The tunes 
for these new and fashionable ballroom dances 
typically came first from England or the 



The Anglo-German Concertina 

Continent (Europe) as each new dance fad 
arrived. As the dance became popular, new tunes 
were informally composed by local musicians. 

Holidays presented an attractive time for 
dances, including a long summer day in January 
1881 in Miller's Forest, near Maitland, New 
South Wales: 

This being Anniversary Day, every person 
appeared on the qui vive for enjoyment . . . 
(including) a picnic in Lampriere 's paddock, 
where a very respectable and select party 
appeared to enjoy themselves; and the different 
caterers for the occasion deserve great credit for 
the admirable supply of good things set down 
before a happy crowd of "braw lads and bonnie 
lasses, " who did ample justice to the niceties 
provided, afterwards tripping the "light fantastic 
toe, " to the strains of the violin and concertina, 

ably handled byMessr 's King and O 'Brien. . . . 
[TJhe sun 's rays gave the signal for returning 
home, after spending an agreeable day under the 
spreading branches of the eucalypti. "'^ 

Dancing was a key element at school 
picnics, as well. At an annual children's picnic in 
the small agricultural town of Stroud in New 
South Wales, in 1 880, concertina music added a 
pleasant note to the proceedings: 

The children and many of their parents 
assembled on the ground at about ten o 'clock, 
and games were fidly and heartily indulged in 
until dusk. . . . Many of the elders joined in 
various games, and to the music of a nicely- 
played concertina a few indulged in a dance on 
the sward. The whole of the assembled men, 
women, and children were regaled with tea, 
sandwiches, cakes, and tarts.^" 

Figure 15. Left to right, Charles, Alfred and Albert Colemane at Brawlin, near Cootamundra, New South Wales, ca. 
1890. Alfred (ca 1837-19 12), who played a German concertina, bottled Eucalyptus oil, and "his name was 
emblazoned on every fence." From the Bush Music C\uh' s Singaboiit Magazine, 1966, with thanks to Bob Bolton. 

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The Concertina in Australia 

At another school event in the Queensland 
cattle town of Banana in 1877, the children 
showed off their own dancing and concertina- 
playing skills at an Easter party: 

At dark all came to the schoolhouse, which, well- 
lighted, presented a gay scene. The children now 
recited pieces, with songs between — some from 
the children, some from their elders. This they 
kept up with great animation until ten o'clock, 
when their loyalty struck up "God Save the 
Queen; " but it was not the end; yet more cakes 
and buns, then outside for fireballs and 
fireworks; back once more to the school, cleared 
for dancing; this, kept up with spirit and skill for 
an hour, finished the holiday. I have heard it said 
that Banana is a didl, unmusical place; but could 
they have heard the children sing — to say nothing 
of the harmonium, concertina, and flageolet; and 
could they have seen the dancing — dancing, mind 
you, of the sensible sort, not mere stiff sets of 
quadrilles, but hornpipes, jigs, and flings, &c., 
requiring knowledge as well as agility — their 
impression might be modified. 

From the above description one gets the 
impression that the elders had largely given up 
the old dances of their home countries for the 
fashionable new dances of the Australian 
countryside, but that the children were still taught 
jigs, reels, and flings for special 

With autumn came harvest 
festivals, and another occasion for 
dancing and revelry, but at times 
those celebrations fell flat for the 
country's hardest workers in these 
rural settlements. The mountains of 
Victoria were the scene for this 
unflattering 1889 vignette: 

Another night with straw for a bed 
and another long day 's labour, and 
the last act of harvest is over. The 
festival begins then, of course. . . . 
The only festival the farmer 
understands is counting out 
sixpences for every hour of labour, 
and if he is a "good fellow " standing a 

glass of rum. The men will receive about 12s 
each. . . . They are wearied with continuous 
labour and broken rest. They want to feel a 
moment 's Joy; the only possible way of obtaining 
it is by drink. And the publican is sure to be 
ready for them. If possible, he will have some girl 
behind the bar, or a n — r with a concertina, on 
the verandah; maybe a bit of supper in the back 
room, with plenty of hot pickles and saltpetered 
beef His palm is itching for those hard-earned 
shillings, and he will surely have them. Look in 
an hour before midnight, and you will see the 
only harvest festival the Australian farmer ' s man 
knows. The girl is working hard for the two or 
three shillings still held. The concertina is 
playing loudly. A couple are dancing, another 
pair courting the girl, two arguing and on the 
verge of a fight, two collapsed on the floor.'''' 

The description makes it clear that an 
Aborigine was the pub's musician. Many 
Aborigines were quite skilled on the concertina, 
as will be discussed further below. 

The term "bush dance" apparently came into 
being in the early twentieth century. The late- 
nineteenth-century descriptions above refer only 
to "dances" or, for a village with aspirations, 
"balls." The earUest Australian reference using 
the term which the author has yet found is from 
an Australian novel of 1907, written by the same 

Figure 16. In the Men 's Hut: a wood engraving of 1891. Men are gambling 
to the musical accompaniment of a singing concertina player. With thanks 
to Peter Ellis. 


The Anglo-German Concertina 

Henry Lawson who wrote the poem included on 
an earUer page: 

Tom was a hard case. I remember wonst I was 
driving along a lonely bit o ' track, an ' it was a 
grand momin ', an' I felt great, an ' I got singin ' 
an ' practisin ' a recitation that I allers meant to 
give at a Bush dance some night.''^ 

At a dance in that novel, the concertina was 
given prominence: 

Jim Bullock was there with his concertina. He 

sat on a stool in front of a bench, on which was a 
beer-keg, piles of teacups and saucers, several 
big tin teapots, and plates of sandwiches, sponge- 
cake, tarts, etc. Jim sat in his shirt-sleeves, with 
his flat-brimmed, wire-bound, "hard-hitter" hat 
on, slanting over his weaker eye. He held one leg 
loosely and the other rigid, with the concertina 
on his knee, and swanked away at the instrument 
by the hour, staring straight in front of him with 
the expression of a cod-fish, and never moving a 
muscle except the muscles of his great hairy arms 
and big chapped and sun-blotched hands; while 
chaps in tight "larstins" [elastic-side boots], 
slop suits of black, bound with braid, and with 
coats too short in the neck and arms, and 
trousers bell-bottomed at the bottoms, and some 
with paper collars, narrow red ribbon ties, or 
scarfs through walnut shells, held their partners 
rigidly, and went round the room with their 
eyes — most of them — cocked at the rafters in 
semi-idiotic ecstasy. 

Clearly, we are seeing something new in 
such twentieth-century descriptions: a romantic 
notion of the "Bush," not unlike the 
contemporary notion of the American Old West. 
Whether that nostalgia had something to do with 
the creation of the term "bush dance" or not, the 
name caught on. A 1908 non-fictional account by 
an Anglican parson paints a detailed picture of a 
"bush dance:" 

/ wish I could do justice to a Bush social. I wish I 
could show you the great chaff-shed, its slab 
walls draped in art-muslin, and its beams 
decorated with green boughs, the pianist seated 


in the corner, supported by a violinist, in some 
cases a real musical genius, whose thirsty soul 
has proved his undoing. At some Bush dances the 
music is provided by a concertina, energetically 
played by a stalwart young Bushman, who sits on 
his heels in the comer in an attitude 
characteristically Australian. Outside the shed a 
temporary supper-room has been built with great 
pine-poles and tarpaulins, and long trestle-tables 
groan beneath delicacies brought from far and 
near. There are turkeys and chickens from every 
farm within miles, sucking-pigs, hams, tongues, 
fruit and cakes, trifles, and innumerable other 
delicacies. At midnight the whole company sits 
down to supper, and thereafter dancing is 
renewed and continued until daybreak makes it 
possible for the tired dancers to see to drive 
home, some of them a distance of fifteen miles or 



In 1913, a non-fictional account of the 
experiences of three Australian tourists who 
made a cross- country tour in 1902-1905 by horse 
and wagon described a "bush dance" in some 
detail. The piece chronicles the beginning of the 
end for the concertina in these social dances, as 
the gramophone takes over. The scene is a 
homestead near Euston, a village on the Murray 
River in southern New South Wales: 

The night was a bit chilly, and after supper we 
stretched ourselves out under the stars in front of 
a big log fire. In between the yams we were 
entertained with various gramophone selections, 
the groom having quite an enormous range of 
records to choose from. 

The gramophone is perhaps the most popular 
musical instrument in the Bush. At one time the 
concertina was most in favour, but the bellows- 
music nowadays is coming in a very bad second. 
Even the mouth-organ hangs on better . . . Often 
the gramophone and mouth-organ meet and 
divide the honours. They did at a Bush dance I 
had the good fortune to be invited to. The floor 
was a bit bumpy, but no one seemed to mind that. 
Those who preferred the slow movement stuck to 
the mouth-organ: the gramophone was for those 
who liked their dancing fast and furious. . . But 

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The Concertina in Australia 

even the old-fashioned concertina has not quite 
been relegated to the lumber-room, as witness a 
recent Bush invitation: 

The pleasure of the Misses Girl Browns and Mr. 
Boy Browns is requested at the wedding of ... . 
to . . . on February 1 6th. N.B. -Ask Tim to bring 
his concertina.''^ 

By the time the "bush dance" had been 
named, and its romantic overtones noted, it began 
to die out as AustraUa continued to develop and 
modernize — and as the Jazz Age introduced new 
styles of dance, like the fox-trot and the 
Charleston. A sure sign of the death of the old 
social dances is the arrival of attempts to "revive" 
it, which began as early as 1922 in 
Castlemaine, a railway town in Victoria: 

Chief events in connection with the 
"Back to Castlemaine " celebrations on 
Tuesday were a procession and sports 
meeting on the Camp Reserve, which 
were largely patronised. In the evening 
an old-time dance was held in the town- 
hall, and proved very successful. Only 
old-time dances were allowed, and the 
music was played on a concertina and a 

With the progress of changing 
musical fashions, the old "bush dance 
orchestra" became an object of ridicule 
for a time in some quarters. At 
Queanbeyan, near Canberra in southeast 
New South Wales, in 1926, a "Guid 
Scotch Night" in the local theatre 
included both nationally prominent 
performers and local artists. Of the latter: 

Turns which proved more than usually 
acceptable were those of Mr. Bertie 
Watson, as "Professor Squish Squash. " 
From Woop Woop, who is a clever 
violinist of the trick variety, and his 
burlesque of a bush dance orchestra (a 
concertina) was indeed laughable. 

Dooley Chapman, the noted player from 
Coborrah mentioned above, experienced the 
discarding of the concertina in the old country 
dances during the 1920s. His interviewer, Chris 
Sullivan, noted that Chapman believed that a 
growing class structure in Australia, as it 
emerged from the pioneer period, was partly to 
blame. To quote Chapman, "the people got a bit 
more stylish — or reckoned they was! They were 
a step higher than the ones that were on the 

The concertina continued to be played in 
some rural areas well into the middle of the 
twentieth century. One such area was the Nariel 
Valley, west of the Snowy Mountains in 

Figure 17. Anglo-German concertina player with two fretless banjo 
players, Australia, ca. 1870. With thanks to Peter Cuffley and Peter 


The Anglo-German Concertina 

southeastern Victoria. In a 1982 interview with 
Neville Simpson (b. 1931) and his father, Sid 
Simpson, Peter Ellis recorded this description: 

All of the old dances were held in schools at 
Nariel, Thougla; this was common throughout 
Victoria until the 1940s and 1950s or until Public 
halls were built. They would go on horseback 
and come home at 4 a.m. or even in daylight. 
Dances consisted of polka mazurkas, 
schottisches, varsovianas, waltzes, sets. The first 
and last dance were always the old time waltz 
(circular waltz) . . . Con and George Klippel's 
father and Dick Klippel wore little peaked caps 
and played concertinas and accordions . . . They 
could dance and play the concertina behind their 
partner 's back. There were lots of polkas, waltzes 
and the Lancers. . . . There were usually only one 
or two musicians on accordion, concertina, and 
fiddle. They would swap instruments around.^^ 

In this account, the all-night dances, the 
selection of dance styles, and the practice of 
playing the concertina behind the back of a 
dancing partner — ^to say nothing of the swinging 
of the concertina to highlight passages of dance 
music, discussed elsewhere in Ellis's writing 
about Nariel — would all be very familiar to Boer 
players of that time in South Africa, or to players 
in New Zealand, as chapters elsewhere in this 
book demonstrate. Late -nineteenth-century 
ballroom dances and the reliance on concertinas 
and accordions for music at many of these dances 
were strikingly similar in English and Germanic 
communities around the world, although in each 
country the steps, tunes, and musical techniques 
were organically modified through the familiar 
folk process. 

Not surprisingly, the Nariel Valley was one 
place where revival efforts began for old-time 
"bush" dancing in Australia in the early 1960s, 
with the work of Shirley Andrews and others 
who collaborated with musicians and dancers 


from the Nariel area. These efforts occurred 
simultaneously with those of folk music collector 
John Meredith to gather old bush tunes and 
songs, much of his work taking place in New 
South Wales and Victoria.^'* Their dedication to 
the preservation and revival of old- time dance 


and music resulted in the recording of many 
surviving bush concertina players, who will be 
discussed in some detail further below. 

The concertina and the miners 

Economic deposits of lead and copper were 

discovered in the 1 840s, but it was the discovery 
of gold in the early 1850s in New South Wales 
and Victoria that brought hundreds of thousands 
of immigrants to Australia, including 
prospectors, miners, smelters, merchants, town 
professionals of various sorts, clergy, and many 
who just wished to see what they could make of 
themselves in an up-and-coming country. They 
came predominantly from Great Britain and its 
colonies, with a sizeable contingent as well from 
the California goldfields. Many of those who did 
not "make it" in the gold rush went on to become 
the graziers (ranchers) and farmers who settled 
much of inland eastern Australia, in the towns 
and settlements that surrounded the big mining 
areas. Most of these gold mines were exhausted 
by the end of the nineteenth century;^^ thus the 
prime gold- mining years neatly bracket the years 
of the concertina's heyday in Australia. It is not 
surprising that the concertina is prominently 
mentioned in accounts of miners in their leisure 

The miners enjoyed the music of the 
concertina from the beginning of the gold rush, 
as evidenced by the account of a group of diggers 
(miners) in the fresh, raw town of Ballarat, 
Victoria. Gold was discovered there in 1 85 1 , and 
the city was bom overnight in the gold rush that 
followed. One early civic project was the 
construction of the "Queen's Theatre," where the 
rough-and-rowdy fare on opening night, in 
November of 1852, included a variety show: 

fljts exterior and interior resembled a huge hut 
of logs, strips of lumber and canvas. The interior 
of the "Queen 's " consisted of the boxes and pit — 
the former suspended by huge beams — and the 
seats were made up of packing cases, casks, 
boxes, etc. The pit, which was one in every sense 
of the word, was supplied with seats of rough 
logs and planks, and from the bark roof a large 
iron hoop, with sockets for sperm candles, 

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answered the purpose of "a chandelier, " and the 
lighting of the house and stage was done by pots 
of burning fat. . . . The curtain was a large 
sheet consisting of many pieces joined together 
by the ladies of the company — and it opened in 
the centre. 

As for orchestra, among the diggers were found 

some who could play one instrument, some 
another, which they had brought with them. And 
so the band— made up from volunteers — 
consisted of the inevitable banjo, the tambourine, 
the violin, the concertina and triangle. They were 
not the best instruments in their class, and 
perhaps did not "discourse most eloquent 
music, " but it was "a sort of harmony" of sounds 
to the audience, and that sufficed. Then there 
were more volunteers from the diggers — singers, 
serious and comic; dancers of jigs, breakdowns, 
and hornpipes; and the stage-manager of the 
Queen 's found little difficulty in making up a 
good "variety olio " to follow the usual dramas of 
the professionals. 56 

That the concertina played was one of the 
newly imported, inexpensive German ones seems 
clear from the description that the instruments 
played by the rough miners were "not the best in 
their class." Of particular interest is the Usting of 
dances. The "jigs, breakdowns, and hornpipes" 
speak to the older dance styles brought over from 
Great Britain; in a few short decades this would 
change, as the couples dances (polkas, waltzes, 
mazurkas, schottisches, varsovianas and the like ) 
would transform concertina music in Australia 
and abroad. 

A brief vignette of a stereotypical Australian 
miner and his German concertina is provided by 
an 1865 newspaper account of a debate among 
the members of the Melbourne Chamber of 
Commerce on a disliked tariff: 

A great deal of insufferable twaddle had been 
uttered at the meetings held in opposition to the 

proposed tariff The meetings were commenced 
by a gathering of cheap jewelers . . . Of course, 
the fate and prosperity of the colony depended 
upon that interest. Were the Government, asked 
these gentlemen, actually going to fasten upon 

the unfortunate digger with a tax on his German 
concertina? (Laughter.) It might be imagined, 
from the speeches of these enlightened 
gentlemen, that the digger commenced his 
occupation with a Californian hat, a pick, and a 
German concertina, and that he sat down at the 
head of his claim, like Orpheus, fancying that he 
would win his gold by musical tunes. (Renewed 

The rawness of frontier mining in AustraUa 
was visible in camp after camp, each aspiring to 
become a prosperous new town, like Nashville in 
1867, with its Gympie Creek gold-field: 

On nearing Nash 's Creek from this side of the 
diggings . . . you ascend a rather high ridge, from 
the top of which you have a very pretty bird 's eye 
view of the present village, and no doubt future 
town. At first sight, as far as the eye can reach, 
you gaze upon masses of tent-tops and bark 
humpies innumerable, scattered about in all 
directions, without the slightest regard to order — 
but in turning your gaze more towards the left 
you find there is a regular line of shanties, &c., 
stretching along and running parallel with 
Nash 's Creek. Descending the ridge to the flat, 
you pass through groups of men, some at work 
sinking, others at the windlass, and strollers who 
have stopped to examine and give an opinion on 
the washdirt hoisted up . . . keeping your 
attention to the left side of the street, you pass — 
as well as the crowds of business men rushing 
about in different directions allow you — a whole 
lot of stores. . . . 

At night, between the hours of 7 and 8, the street 
is crowded, and the strain of concertinas, violins, 
and banjos, enliven the scene wonderfully. Now 
and then a voice, slightly inebriated, may be 
heard singing Ever of Thee, above the babel of 
hundreds of tongues, but this is nothing in 
comparison to the row on Saturday nights — the 
shouting, yelling, dancing, singing, &c., 
interspersed with occasional fights, would beat 
all description; and add to this, dogs barking and 
howling, and guns firing, and you may form some 
slight idea of Nashville at night. 


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Gympie Creek was a bit raw for organized 
religion, as this Church of England pastor found 
in a visit, also in the 1860s: 

As I rode through the outposts of the Gympie 
diggings, which extend for a mile or more beyond 
the chief township, I noticed large placards upon 

the stems of the gum trees, reminding one of 
those placed in a similar position by the love-sick 
Orlando; but on examination it was found that 
the present notices were to inform the inhabitants 
of this wild district, that a Church of England 
clergyman from Maryborough would perform 
Divine service that afternoon only, in a school- 
room at Gympie, and all were invited to attend. I 
found my way there; but was disappointed to see 
that only twenty-three persons had responded to 
the call, and of those about three might be 
supposed to be "diggers. " A young gentleman 
played a concertina instead of the organ, and the 
service was very respectably conducted; but 
when the preacher rose to address us, he very 
naturally was rather severe in his remarks upon 
the zeal of the people, since out of a population 
of 7,000, so few were willing to attend Divine 

A similarly new frontier town along the 
northern Queensland coast met this description, 
in 1877: 

Island Point, Owensville, or Salisbury, was four 

months ago [dating from this present time of 
writing, October 20] primeval jungle . . . On my 
voyage to Cooktown we only stopped for a few 
minutes to discharge and embark passengers, 
but, returning I had an opportunity of noctumally 
visiting for a few hours this, the last new 
Queensland port-an embryo city, which in time 
may per chance rival Cooktown . . . It was a 
pleasant moonlight walk for about half a mile 
when the scrub gave way to more open country 
and on a ridge cabins, tents, and "humpies " 
came to view . . . Tlie first thing which struck me 
was "Island Point Bakery" painted in rough 
letters on a calico tent. . . . Trees are still 
standing all around, but there is a good wide 
cleared track. Stores, houses, tents, and hovels 
are on each side, built without any regard to 


mathematical regularity. Here is a decent iron 
store, next it a calico tent blazing with parafin 
lamps, and containing a bar where the vilest of 
compounds await the noble digger. Every other 
house, tent, or shanty is devoted to the sale of 
liquors. "The Diggers ' Rest, " or "The Miners ' 
Retreat" — such signs meet us at every step. . . . 

Entering the shed, we find a scene worthy of the 
pen of Dickens or Bret Harte. An attempt at 
decoration has been made by hanging boughs of 
trees from the rafters. Candles are stuck in the 
walls, around which benches are placed. On 
these, some blowsy women and drunken men are 
seated. A wheezy concertina gives forth a most 
doleful tune, which is meant for a polka, but 
sounds more like a funeral dirge. One or two 
couples caper on the floor. ^ 

On the other end of the spectrum, the 
Nuccaleena copper mine in South Australia 
(discovered in the 1840s, about 140 miles inland 
of Port Augusta) was an established place in 
1863, and boasted a small orchestra made up of 

This Mine presents a more pleasing appearance, 
as to its buildings, and all the arrangements at 
"grass, " than any Mine in the North; there is an 
air of comfort as well as of business about the 
place, which its more recent competitors have not 
yet attained to. Moreover, the 16-inch cylinder 
steam-engine adds very much to the appearance 
of the Mine. . . . The Captain 's apartments, 
office, and three other buildings of stone, are 
erected on a terrace opposite the engine, and 
present a frontage of nearly 100 feet. There are, 
also, substantial stone stables, a good store, 
smith's shop, workshop, etc., besides a general 
store, established for the purpose of supplying 
the wants of the miners; also a doctor 's house, 
and about 20 good pine huts for the men. 

A Mechanic 's Institute has been formed here, and 
the men seem to devote themselves after work to 
useful study, or to innocent recreation. They have 
established a judge and jury club, for the trial of 
petty offences amongst themselves, and it has 
been found to work well. There is, also, a good 

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musical band, including some good singers 
among its members, the instrumental part 
consisting of a drum, triangle, "bones, " violins, 
and a concertina. On the evening of my arrival 
the band was "discoursing sweet music, " the 
sound of which, reverberating through the hills, 
was very enlivening, especially to weary 
travellers, who had been long absent from 
anything of the kind. 

Most mines and their associated camps were 
not so genteel, and the miners faced some fairly 
predatory pubs and brothels in their quest to 
retain their usually meager earnings, as in the 
dance hall with "gaudy women" at one pub in the 
Stockyard Creek Diggings in Victoria: 

The following description of the kind of revels 
held on the Stockyard Creek Diggings is given by 
the correspondent of the Gipps Land Times: "To 
use Mrs Beecher Stowe's favorite expression, a 
'trafficker in human flesh ' of an enterprising turn 
of mind has imported from Melbourne several 
decidedly objectionable characters, designing to 
exhibit them, a la Colosseum, in connection with 
the sale of fermented and spirituous liquors, on 
the north east side of the creek. Until licensing 
day, on the 26th, he will be allowed to partly 
realise his vision of gain. It is to be hoped, 
however, that the license for which he has 
applied will be peremptorily refused. The 
introduction of a dancing-hall in its worst form 
should meet with no encouragement from the 
Alberton Bench. Imagine a paling-built room, 
about 18 X 12 in size, densely packed with a 
motley assemblage of all sorts and conditions of 
men; in the centre, to the light of two kerosene 
lamps, and in amid a thick cloud of tobacco 
smoke, some score of men and two gaudy women 
are whisking about, the music consisting of one 
concertina. The women very impartially change 
from one partner to another, and retire 
occasionally to drink brandy. The gay and festive 
scene remains a little orderly until about twelve 
o 'clock, when drink is high and common sense at 
zero, then the brutality, rioting, and fighting 
begin. There have been more dangerous 
accidents, and more assaults have been 
perpetrated in one week through the introduction 

of these women than at any other period in the 
existence of the place. " 

The writer then states that one man had his head 
broken with a tumbler, and lies in a precarious 
state, while another about a week ago was struck 
in the stomach by a drunkard, and was allowed 
to lie for three hours in a state approaching 
death, before fear of the consequences compelled 
the landlord to seek medical aid. A lockup is now 
being built, and the arrival of a body of police is 
shortly expected. 

Figure 1 8. Miners dancing to a concertina and piano, 
late nineteenth century. From Nell Challingsworth's 
Australia 's Dancing Heritage, 1994. 

The importation of "gaudy women" was in 
response to the severe shortage of women in 
mining towns. A late-nineteenth-century scene in 
a dancing hall in a mining town (Figure 18) 
shows men dancing together. As current 
musician and music collector Peter Ellis states, 
"there was an extreme shortage of women, so 
men had to partner each other. Usually it was in 
'buck sets,' quadrilles for 4 couples, but in this 
case, a couples dance accompanied by what was 
undoubtedly a German 20 button concertina."^'* 
ElUs also relates that: 

The late Bob Allen ofBendigo also described 
"buck sets " for the Lancers in the 1930s when at 
the dance at Pira (near Swan Hill, Victoria) 


The Anglo-German Concertina 

following the football match, the men had to have 
one bucks ' set in the night and would let go in the 
basket figures, "plaster flying off the walls ". 
Other accounts, such as from Alex Fisher of 
Piangal, say that it was normal for lads learning 
to dance to form up buck sets in the corners of 
the hall after everybody else had 'formed up. " In 
those days all the girls were escorted to the 
dances by fathers and brothers and so it wasn 't 
unusual for males in their youth to be leftover 
once the sets had been arranged on the floor.'''' 

As mining towns grew, the local Chamber of 
Commerce usually made efforts to spruce up 
each raw camp's reputation through legislation 
against loud music and other such affronts in the 
pubs, as in this pub in Queensland on 1 862: 

Mary Hennessey was summoned for allowing 
music to be played in her licensed house, at 
Breakfast Creek, without permission, on the 12th 
instant. Defendant acknowledged the offence, but 
pleaded in extenuation that she was in the bar of 
her house during the whole of the afternoon, and 
was under the impression that the instrument — a 
concertina — was being played outside the 
building. The Bench cautioned her against 
offending in future. ''^ 

Such restrictions on music were enacted to 
help control the abuses of unscrupulous 
publicans, who used music as one way to 
separate a miner from his pay, as in the now- 
defunct Copperfield mine north of the Dawes 
Range in Queensland, about 200 miles northwest 
of Brisbane, in 1871: 

Have you ever been to Copperfield on pay-day? 
If not, go there — unless you belong to a total 
abstinence society, in which case you will not 
find much cause for congratulation at any such 
time in the mining township, still less on pay-day. 
Of all things, the most striking is the readiness 
and activity into which the cup that inebriates is 
circulated. The publicans, in most cases with the 
help of a violin or concertina, reap their monthly 
harvest. They are about the only people in the 
town who do not "shout" today. Three public- 
houses greet you as you enter the town. In each 
of them is a crowd of men — all talking at once 
and inclined to be quarrelsome. An occasional 
fight enlivens the proceedings, and blood flows 

As prospectors pressed farther and farther 
into the interior, they encountered all sorts of 
other dangers, including the ill will of native 

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Aborigines whose homeland was being invaded. 
In 1 895 at Mount Margaret in Western Australia, 
one prospector barely escaped with his life, but 
his concertina was not so lucky: 

Mining in Western Australia has many 
disadvantages, not the least of which is the 
hostility of the black. One miner . . . says that 
"about daylight on Sunday morning he was 
aroused by hearing his horse bells going like 
mad. As the animals came plunging up to the tent 
he observed a spear sticking through a bay filly 
he used for the pack. To dart back to the camp 
for cartridges which he had in his hurry left 
behind was the work of an instant, but to his 
horror he found that a mob of blacks had taken 
possession, and were securing everything they 
could lay their hands on. The tent was torn into 
strips and the tucker tied in preparatory to 
removal, and his blankets (new ones) were torn 
up for loin cloths and forehead bands. He could 
only secrete himself in the scrub and look on, 
being helpless to interfere. A fter pulling out 
everything, the blacks at last espied his 
concertina, and one ... rascal reached out, and 
laid his hand upon it, but happening to press the 
keys, the instilment made a sound. M'hereiipon 
the whole mob, chattering like monkeys, threw 
waddies and spears at the concertina, until it was 
bashed into a shapeless heap, and then, rushing 
upon it as a body, battered the very keys into the 

Beset by unscrupulous publicans and "gaudy 
women," stingy mine owners, and the occasional 
hostile Aborigine, the miner's life was not easy. 
Unfortunately, the end of most gold mining in the 
closing years of the nineteenth century occurred 
too early for any of the concertina-playing miners 
to have been recorded. The dance tunes and 
songs played by farmers and graziers in the 
surrounding bush were probably similar to those 
of the miners. After all, many of these farms 
were supplied with labor by those who did not 
succeed as prospectors in the gold rush. Noted 
Australian player Harry McQueen's grandfather 
Jim played the concertina. In Harry McQueen's 

youth in the early 1920s, as recounted to folk 
collector Peter ElUs, 

[TJhe old miners in Daylesford (northeast of 
Ballarat, Victoria) would have an evening of 
music every Tuesday night. This probably started 
before the First World War when there was a 
half holiday on the Wednesday. The men would 
take it in turns to host the entertainment in their 
respective cottages. Referring to his Grandfather 
Jim, Harry said the miners each arrived with 
their concertina under arm, his grand dad 's 
instrument sitting on the mantel piece. They 
would play draughts for an hour or two, and then 
the host would take down his concertina and play 
a tune. 1 dare not speak or ask any questions. ' 
Nobody else played till after that first tune, and 
then all would join in for a session. ^ 

McQueen brought some of those tunes from 
the old miners of his youth into his own 
accordion repertoire, from where they merged 
with the general musical traditions of the rural 


The bush, in the days before widespread 
telegraph and telephone service in inland areas, 
was alive with outlaws known in Australia as 
"bushrangers." Originally escaped convicts in the 
late eighteenth century, by the late-nineteenth- 
century gold rush days these men were locally 
grown criminals, usually from poor backgrounds, 
who took advantage of the gold fields as a source 
of easily transportable wealth.^' Perhaps not 
surprisingly, they too had caught the concertina 
bug, and the tales of their exploits contain several 
glimpses into an unfamiUar chapter of the 
concertina's history in Australia. 

In 1862 Frank Gardiner (1829-1904) robbed 
the Lachlan Gold Escort near Eugowra, New 
South Wales, the largest gold robbery in 
Australia's history (2700 ounces). As the robbers 
fled, they were pursued for weeks by the police 
and were nearly caught. During their long flight, 
they robbed several stations: 


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rrT'frrr irnoffr^fffrrTftfiofr n 

Figure 20. Sheet music cover for The Pioneer Schottische, from tfie Colonial and Indian Exhibition 
in London, 1886. Note the alligator playing the concertina. From the National Library of Australia. 


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Figure 21. Another concertina-playing alligator (see previous figure). How to Catch an Alligator, from the 
Sydney Bulletin, ca. 1885. 

Davis and his two companions, who galloped 
away when the firing commenced, are supposed 
to be three of the men who accompanied 
Gardiner on Tuesday, when they stuck up Mr. 
Pring at the Crowther station, and afterwards 
Croaker's station. At the former place Gardiner, 
with seven accomplices, stuck up Mr. Pring 's 
servants. One of the bushrangers played the 
piano, while the rest danced and drank brandy 
and water at Mr. Pring 's expense. At Mr. 
Croaker's station one of the bushrangers played 
a concertina, and sang Ever of Thee to the host. 
Sergeant Smith and five troopers are out in chase 
of the robbers, with a fair chance of capturing 
them. ^ 

Gardiner went underground in Queensland, 
working as a shopkeeper until he was recognized 
and arrested in 1864; after ten years' 
incarceration he was exiled to San Francisco, 
where he owned a saloon. 

Canadian-born John Gilbert (1842-1865) 
was an accomplice in the robbery of the Lachlan 
Gold Escort, and became one of Australia's most 
nototrious outlaws, with some 630 robberies to 
his discredit before he was shot down by police 
at Billabong Creek in 1865. Australian-born 
former grazier (cattleman) Ben Hall (1837-1865) 
was another accomplice in the Lachlan robbery, 
and like Gilbert was eventually shot dead in 
1865. Before that career-ending event, Hall and 
Gilbert, along with another accomplice named 


The Anglo-German Concertina 

Stuart, robbed Robinson's hotel in Canowindra, 
New South Wales, in late 1862, holding the 
entire town as well as some hapless travelers 
hostage in the hotel for three days, while the local 
policeman was humiliated by being locked in his 
own jail. After robbing many of the hostages in 
the hotel, the bushrangers introduced a lighter 

[TJhey paid for everything that was consumed by 
the crowd between 1:30 a.m. onMonday and 
noon on Wednesday. At first there had been a 
feeUng of restraint, caused, perhaps, by fear or 
uncertainty, hut this soon wore off, and the party 
ended by being a very merry one. Several games 
were started. Songs were sung, and one of the 
bullock-drivers had a concertina and played 
dance music; several of the members of the party 
danced. The women and children were allowed to 
go to bed, but the men had to sleep with their 
heads on the table. The bushrangers only slept 
with short naps in turn.''' 

All hostages were later freed, and the 
bushrangers all escaped. 

Another Australian stockman turned 
bushranger was Dan Morgan (1830-1865). A 
man with a nasty temper, he was responsible for 
numerous deaths of robbery victims and police 
before he himself was shot dead by the poUce in 
1865. Earlier that year, hostage-taking led to 
another incident with the concertina, but this time 
with a less charitable spirit: 

On March 18th, 1865, he (Morgan) stuck up 
Rand's station at Mohanga, collected all the men 
in one room, and ordered Mr. Rand to fetch some 
grog from the store. This having been done, 
Morgan asked one of the men whether he could 
play the concertina, and being answered in the 
affirmative, told him to get his instrument and 
"amuse the company. " When all was ready the 
bushranger said to Mr. Rand: "I understand you 
are a good dancer. WiU you favour the company 
with a reel? " Mr. Rand said he should only be 
too pleased, and began at once. Morgan watched 
him critically and applauded every now and then, 
but when Mr. Rand stopped, he raised his pistol 
and said: "Once more, please, you dance very 


nicely. " and thus he kept the squatter jigging 
until midnight, when he was allowed to retire. In 
the morning Morgan took from the store a 
quantity of clothing and some other articles, 
including a gun. He then asked for a horse, 
saddle, and bridle, to pack his plunder on, and 


got them. 

The last and arguably the most famous of 
the bushrangers was Ned Kelly (1854-1880). 
Bom in Victoria to Msh parents, he fell into 
trouble with the law early, and became an outlaw 
after he and his gang murdered three policemen 
at Stringybark Creek in 1878. As a result they 
were outlawed by act of the Victorian parliament, 
which was basically a "wanted, dead or alive" 
decree. Later that same year, he and his gang 
raided the National Bank at Euroa on December 
10, and the Jerilderie bank on February 8, 1879. 
Just before the Euroa robbery, in an account 
written only days after the robbery, "Four 
saddled horses answering to the description of 
those ridden by the gang were seen on the top of 
the Bighill, in one of Mr. Younghusband's 


paddocks, on Wednesday." The gang members 
stopped there, taking the station attendants and 
their families hostage for a short time. While 
there, Kelly was writing a letter to the 
government, trying to vindicate himself for some 
past criminal actions. A Mrs. Fitzgerald, wife of 
one of the station hands, was asked for a stamp 
by one of the outlaws, Joe Byrne: 

Byrne spent a good deal of time with Mrs. 
Fitzgerald whilst she was cooking in the kitchen. 
He chatted with her on various topics, and 
played for her entertainment on the concertina. A 
copy of The Australasian was lying on the table, 
and the news it contained concerning the gang 
was read by him with avidity. ^'^ 

Still on the run months later, the Kelly gang 
arrived in Glenrowan on June 27th, which set 
into motion a classic set of events that ended the 
careers of all in the gang. Again, the concertina 
was an eavesdropper to the tense hours leading 
up to the final shootout. The gang took about 
seventy hostages at the Glenrowan Inn, then 
ordered the town's railroad tracks pulled up, as 

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they knew the police were on the way via the 
train and they wished to derail it. In the hotel 
were the Kelly gang members — Ned, brother 
Dan, Joe Byrne, and Steve Hart — along with a 
captured constable named O' Sullivan and all the 
hostages. All were tensely waiting for events to 
unfold, according to the following account by 
Constable O' Sullivan: 

Between 12 and 1 o 'clock on Sunday morning 
one of Mrs. Jones sons sang the Kelly song for 
the amusement of the gang, and his mother 
occasionally asked him to sing out louder. Most 
of the prisoners were cleared out of the front 
parlour, and the gang had a dance. They danced 
a set of quadrilles, and Mr. David Mortimer, 
brother-in-law of the schoolmaster, furnished the 
music with a concertina. Ned Kelly had the girl 
Jones for a partner, Dan had Mrs. Jones, and 
Byrne and Hart danced with male prisoners. 
Thinking they heard a noise outside, the gang 
broke away from the dance abruptly, and Dan 
went outside. It was at this time that I secured the 
key of the door . . . when I heard the special 
arrive (the train with the police), I . . . unlocked 
the door and bounded away. '^^ 

The town's schoolmaster, a hostage who had 
earlier been released by the gang, alerted the 
police train to the danger imposed by the 
destroyed rails. All was now in place for the 
climactic shootout. Each of the four men was 
equipped with body armor made of steel plate, 
but only Ned was outside when the shooting 
began. Dismounting his horse when a bolt in his 
armor failed, he was shot in the arm and legs, 
which were unprotected. The other three 
members died in the hotel, which was set ablaze 
by the police: Byrne bled to death as he poured 
himself a final glass of whiskey at the bar, and 
Dan Kelly and Steve Hart reportedly committed 
suicide. Ned Kelly stood trial and was hanged in 
1880, later to become an unlikely Australian folk 

Aborigines, South Sea Islanders, and the 

Some of the native Aborigines of Australia 
played the concertina, although the instrument 
never seemed to gain the enthusiastic following 
that it had among other indigenous cultures 
around the world, notably the Innuit of North 
America and the Zulus of South Africa. One 
reason for this may be that the Aborigine 
population during the heyday of the concertina 
was declining precipitously, a result of a variety 
of causes including death from infectious 
diseases brought by European contact, and by the 
appropriation of land and water resources by 
white settlers for the grazing of sheep and cattle. 
This process was accompanied by relocation of 
Aborigines to "reserves" and away from many of 
the best parts of their original habitat. From a 
high of perhaps 300,000 to 750,000 people 
before European contact, there were only about 
93,000 Aborigines left by 1900.^^ 

By the late nineteenth century, many 
Aborigines were on Aboriginal reserves run by 
Anglican church missions, where they were 
expected to forego their former bush life and 
learn European habits of work and leisure. Many 
were introduced to the concertina there. An 1887 
account describes a church mission at Poonindie, 
on South Australia's ¥.yxe. Peninsula: 

The experience of twenty-five years has shown 
that the native temperament is soon depressed by 
continuous labour, to which they have never been 
habituated. Their spirits flag, they become ill and 
restless, they long for change of scene, and thus 
are tempted to stray back into the bush. 
Cricketing, therefore, was introduced with great 
success . . . With the same object, the schoolroom 
is thrown open every evening, when bagatelle, 
draughts, and other games — cards only 
excepted — are played. Music is a favourite 
pursuit. More than nine have learned to play the 
concertina; the flute and violin are also heard 
amongst them. Occasionally a few couples amuse 
themselves with dancing, and that with grave 
decorum. A hornpipe danced by two of the men 
was remarkable for the precision of time. At nine 
o 'clock the room is closed. 


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A description of the same reserve, nine years 
earlier in 1875, shows that the concertina playing 
by residents had been going on for some time: 

Here a run with about 5000 sheep was purchased 
by the Archdeacon. Government added an 
extensive tract of land, forming an Aboriginal 

Reserve; and the Colonial Treasury and the 
Society for the Propagation of the Gospel made 
important contributions to the funds A day- 
school for the children was soon established; 
classes were formed for the women; and the men 
and older boys who are at work during the day 
attend a night-school. The necessity for 
amusements was not forgotten; music was 
encouraged. Some of the young men lead the 
singing at church with their flutes, while the 
tones of the concertina and violin are not 
unfamiliar in the settlement. Occasionally there 
is dancing, and harmless indoor games are 
indulged in. 

The previous year, two aborigine lads were 
part of the Australian exhibition at the Colonial 
and Indian Exhibition in London (1886); it is 
quite possible that they were from the Poonindie 

The only living ethnological contribution of its 
kind from Australasia is the pair of aboriginal 
boys from Gipps Land (Victoria), brought over 
by Mr. Thompson. They are in capital good 
health and spirits, and appear to be having a 
good time. . . . The eldest lad is quite musical, 
and rejoices in the possession of an English 
concertina, with which he entertains the 
members of a young men 's society at Highbury, 
to which both boys have been admitted. They 
make capital attendants in the court, and it is 
certain, when the Exhibition opens, that they will 
excite a very great amount of interest as being 
the representatives of a fast dying race. ^ 

Poonondie was one of many of these 
reserves. Another was at Sackville Reach, near 
Port Macquarie on the northern Queensland 

As a rule, every cottage has a plot of land 
attached to it, which the breadwinner tills to 
perfection, and when not hoeing his own row he 
can he found working for his white neighbor. ... 
Most of them can play the violin or concertina. 
Nearly all read and write, they have a place of 
worship of their own contiguous to the village, 
and on the whole lead moral and industrious 

The Forky Mountain Reserve-Burra Bee 
Dee Mission, located at Coonabarabran, New 
South Wales, was founded in 1908 and was 
active until 1957. An oral history of the mission 
was published in 1994, containing the memories 
of several of the grandchildren of Mary Jane 
Cain, an Aborigine who had settled there and 
became accustomed to the ways of the whites, 
including their music: 

Joe Cain: We used to run concerts and we 'd 

dress up and corroboree . . . We can 't do 
corroborees properly, we were just jumpin ' 
about, but the old fellers knew how to shake 
themselves — they could stand there and quiver 
their legs just like the real old Aboriginals . 

Emily Chatfleld: We used to dance all night. One 
old fella had a viohn accordion, old Jack Bates . 
. . Another fellow had a concertina. And another 
feller named old Ned Fuller, he used to play the 
violin. They 'd dance all night. And Toady, he was 
the best mouth organ player you ever heard. 

Joe Cain: We'd have a comb. Aunty Queenie used 

to play the comb and we'd have a mouth organ, 
gumleaves and things. Poor old Ned Fuller 'e 
was the old violin player, and then we had 
another feller that was 'ere, way back when I was 
young, he could play the concertina and then my 
Uncle Tom Cain, he could make the concertina 
talk, lean just remember 'im. They had their own 
music like concertinas and violins and that, too, 
but then as they went away they left us with the 
comb and mouth organ . . . they'd start dancin ' at 
eight o 'clock in the night, and they wouldn 't 
finish till eight o 'clock in the momin '. We had 
great times out there.'' 


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The Concertina in Australia 

"Concertina Charlie" Brown was an 
Aborigine from northern New South Wales, and 
was a contemporary of the players at the Burra 
Bee Dee Mission. The following account of him 
was written in 1938: 

In my travels up and down the vast 

Commonwealth I have only met one really 
accomplished musician of the aboriginal type. He 
was known to most as Old Charlie Brown, while 
others of his acquaintance called him Concertina 
Charlie. He was a full-blooded aboriginal, and 
hailed from Lismore, on the Richmond River, in 
northern New South Wales. 

On account of his musical attainments. Old 
Charlie Brown was very popular. He could 
handle the concertina well enough to provide 
music for country dances, and could if necessary 
take his turn with the mouth organ or tin whistle. 
He could also play the clarinet, and even play 
many popular airs by ear on the piano. He kept a 
safe distance from the local camp, as the other 
aboriginals regarded him as a sort of "debil- 
debil. " At times, however, he struck out towards 
camp after an overdose of rum, and the whole 
tribe would flee to the hills, and leave him in sole 

Once some blacks sneaked into his bark humpy 
[hut] while he was away at work. On the bunk 
was Charlie 's concertina. One curious intruder 

grasped the strap to pick it up, but as he lifted it, 
the strange thing creaked and groaned. He 
dropped it in a fright, and leaped back. The 
others clustered around, their eyes glaring with 
astonishment. Then one knocked it over with a 
waddie [club], and again the instrument 
protested. At that, they bolted for their lives, 
believing that a "debil-debil" was inside it.^^ 

This incident closely tracks the reaction of 
other Aborigines who raided a miner's camp in a 
remote part of Western Australia in 1895, 
described above in the section on Miners. 

It seems clear that Aborigines, as a people, 
were not particularly enchanted with European 
music and customs when living in their original 
bush culture, but as they were acclimated by one 

means or another to European culture they picked 
up concertina playing along with other customs 
from white settlers and missionaries. In modem 
times, concertina playing is not particularly 
common among Aborigines, but then its 
following amongst white Australians is not 
nearly as large as it had been either. 

South Sea Islanders (once known as 
"Kanakas," a term now considered pejorative and 
offensive) are the descendants of people from 
Melanesia (especially the island of Fiji) who 
were brought to Australia in the late nineteenth 
century to work in agriculture. The Islanders had 
quite a different reaction to the concertina than 
did most non-Europeanized Aborigines; like the 
Maoris of New Zealand, they liked it from the 
start, much to their undoing. Many were forcibly 
removed to Australia by a practice known as 
"blackbirding," which sometimes involved the 
concertina. An 1875 text describes this practice. 
It comes from a voyage of the ship Young 
Australia, which sailed to Rotuma, Fiji in 1870: 

The moon was just at this time in its full, and the 
pleasantest part of the whole day in Rotumah was 
from sunset until the moon went down. There 
happened fortunately to be a concertina on 
board the ship, and this was brought ashore 
every evening by one of the sailors. First of all, 
the white men would dance a hornpipe or 
"break-down, " then the natives would dance 
their own dances to their own wild music. 
Sometimes both parties would take hands and 
dance together, and then assuredly the measure 
would be one of the strangest ever stepped by 
sane people. 

The narrator then discusses the practice of 
blackbirding, including the use of the concertina 
in it, not admitting, however, to that practice on 
his vessel: 

Masters and crews would not always be proof 

against the temptation of securing a large 
number of men at one " haul. " What, for 
instance, (would be) easier than to put the 
hatches on when a number of natives were eating 
beef and biscuit in the hold ^ Or, if some natives 
were too wary to come off, might there not be 


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The Anglo-German Concertina 

found ways to induce them to do so If there was 
a concertina on board, it might be played as the 
vessel coasted along certain islands, and its Siren 
notes would be sure to attract a crowd of 
delighted and astonished natives. Sometimes a 
timid islander would come on board, and be sent 
ashore with his face smeared with red and black 
paint, and a looking-glass wherewith to admire 
himself. Others would be envious of his good 
fortune, and would hasten to visit the white men 
before it was too late. Perhaps a dozen islanders 
would now come off—some swimming, some on 
surfboards, some in canoes. Meanwhile the white 
men would be busy in their own way. Each man 
would, it is said, be provided with a saucer full of 
paint and a fragment of looking-glass, and might 
be seen carefully drawing humorous conceits on 
the swarthy face upturned before him. . . . 
Meanwhile, if the tale be true, the captain stands 
at the wheel, with a twinkle in his eye, and anon 
asks aloud, "Are you ready, men ? " "Aye, aye, 
sir, " is the universal response. Then, in a voice 
that rings through the ship, comes the laconic 
order, "Grab! " In a moment every saucer is 
dashed down and each painter seizes his subject 
by the hair, rolls him over, and hurries him 
towards the open hold, where he is soon 

It is not known what percentage of the 
Islanders came forcibly. Early in the twentieth 
century, a British Commission enquired into the 
practice of blackbirding, and some Australian 

planters were forced by the Government between 
1906 and 1908 to return a majority of the 62,000 


imported South Sea Islanders. Other South Sea 
Islanders were either exempted or escaped 
deportation. Either way, it is known that they 
enjoyed the concertina, as noted in this 1903 

The Kanakas are strong, well-built people, with 
intelligent and good-looking faces. As a rule they 
are peaceable and well-behaved, but they do not 

seem to be very happy in their life on the 
plantations . . . They are very fond of music, 
however, and when the day 's work is over amuse 
themselves by playing concertinas, banjos, and 
other simple instruments.^^ 


One of these plantations was at Bingera, 
Queensland, and there a traveling correspondent 
inspected the operations at the sugar mill, where 
on Sunday there was music: 

All the beauty and bravery of Bingera was there, 
including several members of the firm, with their 
wives and families; and the music that emanated 
from a concertina that must have been made of 
leather with cast-iron fittings was provided by 
one of the "slaves " — one of the brutally ill- 
treated kanakas. It is, however, a redeeming fact 
as far as Bingera is concerned that a kanaka is 
allowed to make as much noise in his way as a 
white man, and as I have previously mentioned 
that there were a couple of bagpipes there, the 
liberty allowed is a wide one. There is a danger, 
by the way, that to allow a kanaka to compete on 
equal terms with the coming musicians of 
Queensland blood is a great injustice. I think it 
decidedly — to the kanaka.^ 

Some South Sea Islanders migrated to cities 
like Brisbane, where a correspondent noted 
hearing some music as he took a stroll on 
Christmas Eve in 1884: 

/ ended my wanderings last night by a walk 
through that portion of the town which 
corresponds to the slums of an old-world town.. . 
. In one house some South Sea Islanders were 
enjoying themselves by dancing to the strains of a 
German concertina; from another issued 
snatches of song; and the hotel bars were full; 
but there was nothing to show in the shady side 
of society Brisbane was any worse than, if as bad 
as, any other city of Australia at this festive 



The Islanders now number about two 
hundred thousand people, approximately one 
percent of Australia's population. No current 
concertina players are widely known to exist. 

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The Concertina in Australia 

The Concertina in Cities and Large 

While the above bush dancing, miners' pub 
dancing, and bushranger dancing were occurring 
in rural areas, Australia was slowly but surely 
becoming the urban society that it is today — a 
country where nearly two-thirds of the population 
lives in large cities. Large towns and cities in 
late-colonial Australia were vibrant places in the 
midst of unparalleled growth and prosperity. 
Although modem concertina revivalists in 
Australia tend to focus on its use in bush dances, 
the concertina was played in a wide variety of 
urban settings as well in late nineteenth- and 
early twentieth-century Australia. Most of these 
urban social settings were somewhat similar to 
those of English cities at the time, and included 
venues such as minstrel shows, music halls and 
vaudeville, school and church entertainments and 
dances, and dancing saloons; in all of these, the 
concertina was prominently employed. Street 
musicians and beggars as well as temperance and 
salvation organizations used the instrument. It 
was incidentally involved in urban petty crimes, 
leading to some accounts of its use. Most 
importantly, it was a favorite of everyday city- 
and town-folk during their leisure hours and 

Minstrel shows 

The concertina arrived in Australia at about 
the same time as did the world-wide minstrel 
music craze. Initially, blackface minstrelsy was 
received with some apprehension in the polite 
parts of society, as in Mr. Russell's Grand 
Concert at the Mechanic's Institute in Hobart on 
April 7, 1853, where, in a program of the usual 
poUte sentimental melodies and light classical 
pieces, Mr. Jackson introduced a "Negro 
Melody" entitled Yah, yah, to Dinah Trot, sung 
with concertina accompaniment and very likely 
performed in blackface. Australian high-society 
audiences were well used to the EngUsh 
concertina by this time — certainly George Case 
had been over several times from England, to 
enthusiastic reviews — ^but they had not seen 

anything like this. The Courier carried a scathing 
indictment of that part of an otherwise fine 

We have to express our regret that anything so 
much out of place should have been introduced in 
the programme as the N- — r thing with the 
concertina, such caricatures of the ideal are 
uncomely when contrasted with the highest 
efforts of music; nor can we express our approval 
of the way in which the imitator placed it upon 
the stage. In no assemblage of a similar 
character would the nasal outrage against good 
breeding be permitted to pass with impunity, and 
we were pleased to see that their good sense 
prevented a repetition of the scene.^^ 

The reviewer's disdain notwithstanding, 
American minstrel music had arrived, and was to 
become a permanent fixture in late-nineteenth- 
and early-twentieth-century AustraUan popular 
music, just as it had become in England, Ireland, 
South Africa, and New Zealand. At another 
seemingly genteel concert in Melbourne the same 
year, Joseph WiUde played concertina in a group 
that also included a comopeon and a flageolet 
(tin whistle). Their turn in the evening of 
sentimental pieces consisted of "Celebrated 
Negro Melodies" included Stop dat Knockin at 
de Door and Carry Me Back to Old Virginny. 
Wilkie ran the local music warehouse, where he 
sold a variety of musical instruments including 
the EngUsh concertina, which he played. Other 
songs performed by others during the evening 
catered to the interest of miners, such as The 
Perservering Gold Digger and Gold Must be a 
Curious Thing?^ 

Newspaper reviews in the small then-mining 
town of Strathalbyn, South Australia, were 
positive when an AustraUan group performed 
minstrel pieces in 1861: 

The Nightingale Minstrels have visited this town, 
and performed three nights to a crowded room. 
Mr. Harry Jackson was the star of the company, 
and with Mr. H. Smith and his concertina 
produced a favourable impression; any musical 
entertainment is sure to be welcomed here.^' 


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The Anglo-German Concertina 

The Nightingale Minstrels were one of a 
number of home-grown minstrel troupes that 
flourished in both cities and mining towns in the 
late nineteenth century. Another of the many 
troupes was the Civil Service Christy Minstrels, 
who played in Brisbane in 1 870 for a fund raiser 
attended by the Governor and his entourage. 
According to a review, "The performance 
reflected much on the ability and good taste of all 
who took part in it, the gem of the evening being 
some exquisite concertina-playing by a skilled 
amateur."'' The group's name came from the 
Christy Minstrels, an early American minstrel 
group that took England by storm in 1857; their 
name became a generic title for minstrel take-offs 
all over the world. A photograph of one such 
Australian minstrel group is shown in Figure 21. 

Minstrel entertainments were a special 
favorite of miners. A prospector who worked 
with a group of prospectors from a boat along the 
Myall River in New South Wales in the 1860s 
recalled when they arrived at a town to replenish 
their supplies and prepared a musical evening for 
local people: 

When we reached the store we found the craft 
had arrived, and the usual bi-monthly concourse 
of settlers had assembled. We camped close by, 
and spent a jolly evening. One of our number was 
a capital concertina player, another 
played the bones, and I extemporised 
a triangle. In conjunction with the 
proprietor, we gave out that there 
would be an Ethiopian entertainment 
in the store that night, which was 
cleared for the purpose, and a rude 
stage erected at one end. "Admission 
free, " was the announcement, and 
when eight o 'clock struck we made 
our bow to a densely packed 
audience. We had our faces 
blackened, and were dressed, as far 
as our limited wardrobe would 
allow, in orthodox n — r costume. 
The affair was a great success. We 
gave a number of the old Christy 
songs and well-worn witticisms, after 
each of which the applause was 
deafening. Finally, when we retired, it 

was only to reappear amongst the audience, who 
had already cleared the floor, and were 
indulging in step-dances, reels, &c., to their 
heart 's content. We joined in, and the fun was 
fast and furious. No one thought of bed, and it 
was not until the stars had faded, and the grey 
streaks of morning began to peep in between the 
logs of the old store that the revel ended.^^ 

Even churches and temperance societies got 
involved in hosting minstrel acts, as in this 
concertina in Melbourne, 1884: 

A miscellaneous programme has been provided 
for the People 's Concert in the Temperance-hall, 
Russell-street, this evening, including the re- 
appearance of the Combination Serenaders in a 
minstrel entertainment, and the first appearance 
of Mr. Alfred De lacy, a "female impersonator" 
and Irish comedian. The second portion of the 
programme will comprise songs and dances, 
concertina solos, and negro performances. 

The Catholic School in Modewarre, 
Victoria, held a "Grand Minstrel Entertainment" 
in aid of the local Geelong Hospital on May 17, 
1889. Among the soloists was Edwin Stephenson 
(1840-1917) on concertina, who accompanied the 
popular song Mary Blane and played a concertina 
solo. Stephenson, shown with his two-row 

Figure 22. Amateur blackface minstrels, Australia, late nineteenth century. 
Note German concertina at right. From Fiona Magowan and others, 
Landscapes of Indigenous Performance, Aboriginal Studies Press, 2005. 


The Concertina in Australia 

Anglo-German concertina in Figure 23, was bom 
in Northumberland and worked as a fisherman, 
fowler, and shoemaker at Lake Gherang, 
Victoria, according to his great-great- 
granddaughter Rosemary Richardson.^'' It is said 
that he made replacement reeds for his concertina 
from the steel ribs of ladies corsets. 

Figure 23. Edwin Stephenson, of Modewarre, Victoria, 
with a two-row Anglo-German concertina, ca. 1900. He 
performed in minstrel shows. With thanks to Rosemary 
Richardson and Peter Ellis. 

Significantly different from earlier dance 
music, minstrel music emphasized constant 
improvisation, and had a lively, catchy, African- 
inspired rhythm with a rakish backbeat on the 
second and fourth beats of each measure — unlike 
most dance music of the era which was firmly 
accented on the first and third beats. This 
improvisation and rhythmic character anticipated 
the arrival of the jazz age a half-century later. 
The minstrel show format itself was an 
improvement on stiff soirees and polite concerts. 
A routine of jokes and stage patter by a standard 
group of characters was interspersed with 
sentimental songs and dance numbers, laying the 
groundwork for later vaudeville and variety 
shows. Minstrelsy is remembered today for its 
often ugly racial insensitivity toward African 

Americans. And yet, it represented the first time 
that the symbiosis of African and European 
music — the well-spring of American popular 
music from which was also drawn ragtime, jazz, 
blues, rock 'n' roll, and hip-hop — was placed 
into the American and global popular-music 
mainstream. It also became one of the first 
venues, late in the nineteenth century, for 
authentic African-Americans (ethnic, not 
blackface imposters) to perform on stage. Some 
of these authentic minstrel and jubilee-singing 
troupes toured Australia toward the end of the 
nineteenth century, as the form evolved into 
Cakewalk and ragtime music. 

Minstrelsy's most lasting cultural legacy is 
its repertoire of tunes and songs. Australian 
folklorists collected many such tunes, including 
Old Dan Tucker, played by Dooley Chapman and 
included as a transcription in Chapter lO,'*" as 
well as a great many of the song tunes played and 
sung by Duramana New South Wales singer and 
concertina player Susan Colley (of whom more 
below), including Nellie Grey, Lily Dale, 
Massa 's in de Cold Cold Ground, Old Black Joe, 
Old Kentucky Home, and I'se Going Back to 

Music halls, concerts, and other entertainment 

The soirees of polite society were always the 
realm of the EngUsh system concertina. An an 
account of a Grand Fete in an elite area of Hobart 
in 1857 describes just such an exclusive 

On Wednesday night the most magnificent fete 
ever witnessed in this colony was given by Mr. 
and Mrs. Samuel Moses at their suburban 
residence, Boa Vista, New Town. The 
preparations and arrangements for this splendid 
affair were on the most extensive and elegant 
scale, and every appliance and means which 
wealth could furnish were lavished with 
unsparing profusion to render the fete as 
attractive as possible. . . . 

The drawing room is a superb apartment, 
elegantly and luxuriously furnished, and 
ornamented with statuettes of Cupid and Psyche, 


The Anglo-German Concertina 

Bacchus and Ariadne . . . This room opened by 
folding doors into the dancing room, and was 
devoted, during the evening, to vocal and 
instrumental music, at which Mrs. Perceval 
delighted her auditors by her exquisite 
performance on the Concertina. 

When it came time for dancing, however, 
Mrs. Perceval set aside the concertina, as her 
husband. Colonel Perceval, had brought his 
regimental brass band, and the party — just like 
their less affluent neighbors in the bush— danced 
until dawn. 

In Melbourne society in 1872, a large 
entertainment at Weber's Assembly rooms 
consisted of high-brow operatic arias, choruses, 
and overtures; and then "Mr. Duboulay, who is a 
talented player on the English concertina, and has 
been favourably noticed before now at these 
concerts, gave two solos, which were received 
with great favour." The use of the English 
concertina had been championed by English 
musician and early concertina builder George 
Case, who, along with his wife, Grace Egerton, 
visited Australia numerous times from 1854 to 
1875, each time performing in similar classical 
music venues. They were en route to Australia in 
1881 from a tour in America, with plans to settle 
in Brisbane permanently, when Mrs. Case 

At a soiree at "Mrs. Westwood's house" in 
Perth in 1886, an English-system concertina 
player named A. J. Diamond performed: 

Mr. A. J. Diamond made a decided success by his 
masterly manipulation of the concertina. It is 

seldom thought that that despised instrument 
yields forth much "concord of sweet sound, " the 
reason being perhaps that few musicians deem it 
worth of any serious attempt at mastery. In Mr. 
Diamond 's hands it is made to assume a 
sweetness and softness of tone that is as rare as it 
is pleasing. In the dying cadence of his lower 
notes one is almost reminded of the violin, hut 
unfortunately when once more the concertina 
puts forth all its power, the illusion flees, and we 
are again awakened to strains most resembling, 
in their harshness, the strident tones of a wheezy 


Mr. Diamond, however, was popular enough in 
Perth to play numerous concerts there in the 
1880s and early 1890s. 

The music halls and, later, vaudeville 
catered to a more middle -class clientele, and 
concertinas figured frequently, if not 
prominently, in tiieir fare. Besides Case, several 
other prominent concertinists of the day, such as 
duet players Alexander Prince and John Hill 
MacCann, toured Australia in the early twentieth 
century. Homegrown artists in local concert 
venues were to be found playing a variety of 
concertina systems. In Brisbane in 1862, mimic 
and musician Harry Houdin entertained in part on 
a German concertina: 

Mr. Harry Houdin, who has gained for himself 
considerable reputation by his successful 

delineations of "national characteristics, " 
appeared in his polynational entertainment at the 
School of Arts last evening. . . . 

After playing a Swiss broom girl, a French 
dancing master, a Yankee pedlar, and an Irish 
turfman, Houdin turned to minstrel fare: 

Brother Bones, in which character Mr. Houdin 
performed solos on tin whistle, piano, and 
German concertina, dancing also "the American 
break-down, " brought the entertainment to a 

As time passed, the concertina increasingly 
became a novelty instrument in the halls and in 
vaudeville, rather than a serious instrument per 
se. An example is provided by the act at Theatre 
Royal in Brisbane in 1897, where "Messrs 
Sherwin and Watkins played instruments — 
handbells, the concertina, sleighbells, and various 

I 03 

strange-looking instruments." " At Perth's 
Cremorne Gardens, in 1899, the concertina was 
merely a device for impersonation of sounds: 

The new artistes with Messrs. Jones and 
Lawrence 's Vaudeville Company attracted a 
large audience to Cremorne Gardens last night. 

Virto, the clever instrumentalist, introduced a 
new item, that of the solo "Alice, where art 

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The Concertina in Australia 

thou? " on a shepherd 's pipe, and gave a number 
of new imitations on the concertina. 

As the heyday of the German and Anglo- 
German concertinas passed, urban Australian 
audiences occasionally remembered them when 
they were played by character actors on the 
vaudeville stage. In 1919 at the Majestic Theatre 
in Adelaide, "Chado, the bush concertina artist, 
will present an interesting musical act."^°^ 
Australian music and, no doubt, humor, were on 
display in 1926 at Melbourne's Bijou vaudeville 
theatre when Harty North, "The Concertina 
Swagman," was "well received." 

It must be noted, however, that German and 
Anglo-German concertinas were never an 
essential or particularly significant part of 
middle-class urban music hall, concert, and 
vaudeville fare regardless of their popularity in 
the bush. The Anglo-German concertina was 
always more popular at dances than at concerts, 
as a look at dances held at schools and churches 
in large towns and cities will show. 

Urban social dancing 

Social dancing in Australia's new and 
rapidly growing cities and towns was of course 
not the community activity that it was in rural 
settlements, but it was perhaps just as popular. As 
social stratification crept into towns and cities, 
changing the old pioneer egalitarianism, dances 
were increasingly held by social station, much as 
in England at the time. The wealthy, as we saw 
above, held private dances in their large 
mansions, and these did not usually involve the 
down-market Anglo-German concertina. For the 
middle classes, dances typically occurred at civic 
occasions Uke the annual Mayor's Ball, in church 
halls, and at fraternal lodges, while some rather 
notorious urban dancing saloons were popular 
with the working poor. And for all there were 
dances at holiday outings, at the seashore, and the 
Uke. The concertina was usually present, just as it 
was in the bush. 

A Melbourne resident wrote to the editor of 
the Weekly Times in 1870: 

I see all the dancing-masters are on tiptoe for the 
Mayor 's Ball, and I hope there 11 be a good show 
of able-bodied kicksters and flingsters when the 
time comes. I don 't know any folks so given that 
way as we are. Everybody gives Balls (with a 
capital B), even down to my neighbour in the 
mangling line, with the daughter that plays the 
piano, and the boy that tunes up all night on the 
German concertina. High and low, we all give 
Dignity Balls like any n — rs, and work at 'em 
just as hard, too.'^ 

A drawing of such a ball is in Figure 24, 
from the Illustrated Sydney News of 1889. A man 
is playing a German or Anglo-German concertina 
as several couples take part in a couples dance 
(the original caption mentioned polkas, 
mazurkas, and schottisches). The standard of 
dress was reasonably high, but the seating 
appears to be comprised of wool sacks, indicating 
that this may actually be a dance in a bam. 

At the other end of the social and 
economic scale, the poor in Melbourne attended 
dancing saloons, which were often dreary places, 
and subject to police raids as "unregistered dance 
halls." One such place was the "Royalty Dancing 
Academy," visited by a newspaper writer in 

A curtain at the end of the passage concealed the 
dancing saloon. Thrusting this aside, I passed 
into a spacious, well-lit hall, in which some 20 
couples were engaged in going through the 
evolutions of a quadrille to the "mangled music " 
of a piano and a concertina. . . . 

I learnt that the "Royalty" professes to be 
conducted on the principles of a club. There is no 
admission by payment at the doors, the reunions 
being intended solely for members. There is no 
subscription to be paid by lady members, all 
expenses of this sort devolving on the unlucky 
male, who pays five shillings entrance fee and ten 
shillings per month for his membership. A hook is 
to be kept in which every lady member must enter 
her name, occupation, and address; and they are 
not permitted to leave the building during the 
evening until they quit it for good. Obnoxious 


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The Anglo-German Concertina 

Figure 24. A concertinist playing for the Barn Dance, the latest Australian ballroom dance rage in the 1880s and 1890s. From 
the Illustrated Sydney News, August 8, 1889, with thanks to the State Library of New South Wales and Peter Ellis. 

members are liable to expulsion by the voice of a 
majority. . . . 

As I was occupied in committing these 
regulations to memory the dance came to an end, 
there was a general move towards the side 
rooms, and the proprietor came up to me and 
expressed his willingness to afford me any 
information I might desire. During the dances he 
was engaged in playing the concertina; the lady 
at the piano was his daughter. The hall, he said, 
had been built after his own design, and had put 
him to very great expense; nevertheless, he had 
no doubt that the outlay would have been 
justified by the success of his venture had he not 
been made the victim of certain "proceedings " 
[police raids on unregistered dance halls]. 

"Do you find the number of members lessened 
owing to these proceedings? I asked. 

"Lessened, I should think so, sir. Why, I need to 
muster over three times as many as you see here 
to-night. " 

"They seem to be mostly ladies here tonight, " I 

"Why, yes ; gentlemen are getting afraid to come 
now. " 

"Afraid. How 's that? " 

"Why, just suppose you are standing up with a 
lady for a dance, when in comes a fellow, walks 
up to you, takes out a book and pencil, and says, 
'I belong to the police. I want your name and 
address. You 're in an unregistered dancing hall, 
and will have to appear as a witness in court. ' 
You 'd be likely to think twice, I expect, before 
you 'd risk it a second time. ..." 


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The Concertina in Australia 

In reply to my question as to whether he did not 
consider the violin to form a more suitable 
accompaniment to the piano than the concertina, 
he said that the latter was stronger; he played the 
violin (though he called it the \oiolin), and had 
taken his degree in music — that was the meaning 
of the letters J.K.L.M on his card. It was time for 
the next dance, however, and he must join the 
orchestra. . . . 

There was something depressing to me in the 
atmosphere of the "Royalty. " It seemed as if it 
were under its best behaviour and didn't like it — 
striving to keep up appearances and appear 
genteel under the consciousness that it was a 
somewhat dreary and transparent farce. The 
result was to produce a nondescript sort of 
entertainment in which the fare, so to speak, 
consisted of neither fish nor fowV°^ 

Another description of a dancing saloon 
comes from the Sydney Bulletin in the 1890s, 
with an account of the proceedings in Blake's 
Buildings in lower Sydney, where "larrikins" 
were dancing (see Figure 25, also from the 
Bulletin). A larrikin is an Australian term for a 
young man who is irreverent and somewhat 
disaffected in his attitudes toward authority and 
society. In an extreme case, the term refers to a 
lout or hoodlum, although there seems to be a 
wide range of larrikinism: 

'Tis a large room, but poorly lighted, wherein, 
mixed up in inextricable confusion, is an 
immense crowd of men, boys and girls, and 
women, all hot, all moving, and all oily-looking. 
There a bloated old man is whirling a sweet 
"sixteener " about, grasping her as tight as 
though she were a run-away horse. She smiles 
upon him, while her head hangs upon his 
shoulder. Her hair is disordered, and her 
clothing, which is of a semi-seedy character, is — 
well, hardly clean. The skirts reach to just above 
her ankles, and a very discoloured stocking 
appears above a styUsh pair of boots — about the 
only object upon the girl not hideously repulsive. 
The man has his two arms passed under the girl 's 
arms, and his hands clasped together upon her 
back; her hands are just behind the back of his 

neck, as they flop round, keeping time to a 
fearfully monotonous and jerky schottische. He is 
a gay old man, to whom rum is a most esteemed 
beverage, and the perfect colouring of his nasal 
organ shows plainly that great care must be 
taken to always get a three-penn 'orth for the 
money — paid by a friend! The girl — well she is a 
girl— just so — and a girl who frequents such a 
place must be a virtuous girl, you know — of 

On all sides do I behold the delightful larrikin — 
the gorgeous Haymarket swell-clothed in peg-top 
trousers, high-heeled and very tight boots, short 
coat, filled shirt, and greasy — aye, very greasy 
hair — which lies plastered down upon his head. 
Sweet spirit of prophetic vision, tell me whence 
are these, and whither shall I seek them in the 

Figure 25. A larrikin dancing with his girl, while 
playing a concertina wrapped around her back. From 
the Sydney Bulletin. 


The Anglo-German Concertina 

With increased class structure in these 
maturing cities also came a sense of 
cosmopolitanism and a Bohemian style that was 
not typically present in the rural bush. A shocked 
and disapproving visitor from the (at that time) 
small New Zealand town of Dunedin wrote this 
about his trip to the big city of Sydney, and a 
dance at a park pavilion, in 1891: 

[IJt would surprise a . . . Dunedin citizen to see 
with what scanty reverence the seventh day of the 
week is treated in Sydney. On a visit there some 
time ago I was witness of a curious Sabbath 
scene at one of the harbour resorts. We drove 
down partly on business, partly for the pleasure 
of the drive through North Shore, to a place 
called Athol Gardens. This was one of the less 
prominent resorts "down the harbour. " There 
were no gardens, only a small pier, a level piece 
of grassy ground, the bush coming down to the 
water 's edge, a caretaker 's house, and a 
pavilion. . . . 

Every person who landed from a boat and 
desired to picnic on the spot paid a small fee . . . 
The pavilion was the feature and attraction of the 
place. . . . The Sunday was a magnificent 
summer 's day — hot, a cloudless sky, and scarcely 
a breeze in the air. Party after party landed from 
Sydney in boats, paid their landing fee, and took 
possession of the place. One or two were 
families, come like all the rest to spend the day — 
picnicking among the rocks on the beach, or 
within the slight shade of the trees. But 
principally they were young lads and girls. 
Several were of the more respectable class — 
young men one would take to he in warehouses 
with girls who might be in draper 's shops. They 
brought eatables with them, played cricket on the 
green, or strolled about the beach in couples. 

The principal party was composed of about 20 
young men and as many girls. This party took 
possession of the pavilion. The males were 
closely approaching to the larrikin class, perhaps 
workers in a boot factory or something of that 
sort. The girls were of a class hard to specify. 
They were not apparently immoral, but they were 
evidently innocent of parental control. Their ages 


ranged from 14 to 20. The young fellows were all 
in light clothing— flannel jacket and trousers — 
the girls principally in white dresses, and each 
wore a red ribbon somewhere either in her hair, 
at her throat, or in her hat. There were a couple 
of concertinas with the party and several mouth 
organs. From the moment they landed until they 
left, except while the whole party in a body 
discussed the provisions, they danced.. 

Sometimes it was to the concertina, sometimes to 
the mouth organ. Half the young fellows were in 
their bare feet, but that made no difference; they 
danced as vigorously as their mates in the natty 
little pointed-toed boots. The dance was always 
the same — one I had never seen before a kind of 
mixture of the waltz, schottische, and polka- 
mazurka, very easy and graceful. There was a 
complete absence of ceremony. Two girls would 
be dancing together one moment, and the next, 
without breaking step, each had taken to herself 
a male partner from a couple who had been 
similarly engaged. There was a constant 
changing of partners without leaving the floor. 
How long some of them kept the step up it would 
be impossible to say. When a couple got tired, 
they dropped out and looked on for a while or 
took a stroll, and when they came back— either 
the concertina or the mouth organ was providing 
the same old tune, the witchery of which was 
always irresistible. .'"^ 

There were immigrants in the cities, too, 
with their own dance customs. In 1900 an Irish 
dance in Sydney was presided over by one 
Constable Casey, with the music provided by, of 
course, a concertina, as this charming bit of 
period doggerel proclaims: 

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The Concertina in Australia 

Constable Casey, M.C. 

Oh, the constable would stand. 

He would stand. 

And, with the voice of gruff command. 
He'd say, "Grip your partners! Bow! 
Shassy now! Shassy now! 
Be aisy, Michael Moore- 
Cock-eye Simpson has the flure; 
And Paddy Byrne, me mahn. 
Be as dacint as ye can." 
And the concertina then 
Would play "Courting in the Glen;" 
And the dance would gaily go 
On a square and proper toe. 
And regulated be 
By Casey, M.C. 

Oh, the constable would say. 
He would say, 

To all the wall flowers in array 
By the greasy dadoed wall — 
'Choose your partners, one and all. 
And if any mahn ye see 
Should object to dance wid ye 
Why, just pint him out to me — 
And in quod he soon will be. 
So get up and curchey now. 
But beware of any row. 
Swing your partners, gentlemin! 
Now it's hand-in-hand agin — 
That's the way things should be 
Under Casey, M C. 

' Gyirls, yer programmes, if ye plaze. 
If ye plaze. 

Ha ! These names ye must erase, 
Ye must sthroike out Billy Wood — 

For his morals are not good. 

Ye must sthroike out Mike Dinoon — 

He'll be Wanted purty soon. 

Ye must sthroike out Andy Greer — 

He's a married man, I hear. 

Ye must sthroike out all the lot. 

For religions doves they're not. 

What for partners will you do? 

Then, says ye. 

Why, God bless yer hearts so thrue. 
And yer heels wid their tattoo. 
Me fri'nd Constable M'Glue 
Will at yer service be, 
Wid Casey, M C. 

C.B., in the Sydney Bulletin.^^° 

Dancing was everywhere. At Brisbane's 
Woogaroo "Lunatic Asylum," in 1869, dancing 
was part of treatment: 

[DJancing parties . . . take place every Tuesday 
and Friday evening, and to which strangers are 
gladly admitted. . . . They are held in the long 

ward attached to the female asylum. Dancing 
commences at half past 7 and continues until 10, 
and a most interesting sight it is, the most 
admirable order being preserved. Dances of all 
descriptions are indulged in that are common to 
the most fashionable assemblies. The music is 
furnished by a violin, flute, and concertina, 
played by three of the warders, and a regular 
programme is gone through. Dr. Challinor, who 
is always present, is one of the most indefatigable 
of the dancers, and the amusement is frequently 
shared in by several members of his family. 
Perfect decorum prevails everywhere, and a 
perfect stranger finds no little difficulty at first in 
distinguishing between the attendants and the 


Street musicians 

Not everyone who immigrated to Australia 
found his fortune there, and not everyone bom in 
Australia found success either. As the cities 
grew, so did a population of the impoverished, a 
staple of Victorian cities in England. Street 
music, often involving the inexpensive German 
concertina, was one way that people on the 
bottom rung of the social ladder could eke out a 
living. Just as in London (Chapter 2), street 
music in Australian cities ranged from highly 
skilled professional entertainment to simple 

In a Melbourne courtroom in 1869, a 
performing child's welfare was in question: 

At the City Court yesterday the charge sheet was 
rather heavy, and the cases occupied the Bench a 

considerable time before they were all disposed 
of but there were no cases of an interesting or 
unusual character, except that of a woman 
named Timmins, who was charged on warrant 
with illegally detaining a girl of thirteen, named 
Emma Wells, from the custody of her mother. 


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The Anglo-German Concertina 

From what could be gathered of the particulars, 
it would seem that Timmins first met the child at 
Bendigo, where its parents were then living. The 
mother "took to drink, " and the father was 
obliged to leave her, so the child was often half 
starved, and always neglected. Timmins had 
compassion on the child, gave her food, and at 
her own request, as well as that of her mother, 
undertook the sole charge of the child. This 
woman is a player of some skill upon the 
concertina, and goes about fi-om place to place, 
making money by her performances; the child 
Wells, it was soon found, could sing prettily, so 
the two worked together. Meanwhile the mother 
has removed to Echuca and seems desirous of 
again having her child; she has, therefore, taken 
out a warrant against Timmins, who so much 
befriended them, without ever applying for the 
return of the child.' ^~ 

Street music was not always appreciated, 
especially when it involved the concertina. At 
that time, windows were usually open during 
warm weather, and people were not used to the 
cacaphony of noises that we endure today from 
automobiles, lawn mowers, recorded music 
devices, and the like. In Adelaide, a newspaper 
writer expressed his annoyance, in 1870: 

It is no doubt true that under certain 
circumstances "music hath charms, " but there 
are times when musical instruments in the hands 
of aspirants to fame in that branch of the Fine 
Arts, are a nuisance in the fullest meaning of that 
comprehensive word. Of late the literary staff of 
this journal has been nightly serenaded by an 
enthusiastic, but very indifferent performer on 
the concertina, who takes up a position at the 
opposite corner of the street, and for several 
hours at a time is most zealous in his endeavours 
to "get through " Old Dog Tray, and others 
similarly interesting pieces, on a most intolerably 
unmelodious instrument. We cannot appreciate 
the music. 

The blind were enthusiastic players of the 
concertina, and found it ideal for soliciting a few 
coins from passersby (Figures 1 and 26); several 
accounts from London were addressed in Chapter 

2. A similar congregation of them on Bourke 
Street in Melbourne in 1877 inspired this letter 
from a disgruntled victim of their music: 

Sir, — Few nuisances endure long in this city. 
There is, however, one exception to this rule. I 
refer to the blind concertina players, who nightly 
take their stand at the junction of Swanston and 
Bourke streets and offend the ears with such an 
execrable din, as becomes to the occupiers of 
adjacent houses perfectly intolerable. As a 
charitable citizen I have silently endured this 
nuisance for many years, but still "the same old 
tune " goes on, and the limit to all patience and 
forbearance is reached. Is there no means of 
relieving unoffending citizens of this infliction? 
As I write, my whole system is worked up into 
such a dangerously feverish condition by the two 
opposition concertinists referred to, that should 
a breach of the peace take place I ought scarcely 
to be held responsible for my actions. Why 
maintain a blind asylum, and at the same time 
allow these unfortunates to annoy the public in 
order to obtain their daily bread?"'' 

Figure 26. Australian street musician, perhaps blind, 
with dog, from \he. Australasian Illustrated News, 
Melbourne, late nineteenth century. Compare with Figure 
With thanks to John Whiteoak and Peter Ellis. 


The Concertina in Australia 

Those blind concertinists were never fully 
evicted in Melbourne, and their performances 
continued until at least as late as 1912. At that 
time, a blind man in Adelaide was in court, on 
trial for wounding his wife in a knife attack. 
Frank Long, originally from the English 
Midlands, was a well-known bUnd street 
concertinist in Adelaide. His wife of eight years 
"led him about the streets on his itinerary as a 
musician. On account of his alleged unkindness 
to her she left him early this year," which 
provoked the attack, in 1912. He was 

A church service in Brisbane was regularly 
being interrupted by a gang of boys in the street 
outside, in 1871: 

On every Tuesday night the members of the 

Petrie-terrace Band of Hope assemble in the new 
Baptist Chapel . . . for the purpose of giving 
recitations, singing temperance hymns, and 
hearing short and instructive addresses . . . At the 
same time, a number of hoys congregate in the 
vacant space around the chapel, bringing with 
them a miscellaneous assortment of musical 
instruments, from a second-hand concertina to a 
worn-out kerosine tin, and during the whole of 
the time the Band of Hope proceedings last, they 
keep up, or rather they carry out, a peculiar kind 
of musical programme which causes a great deal 
of annoyance to Mr. Moore and those inside the 
chapel. . . . Every now and then the voice of some 
youthful speaker would be completely drowned 
by the soul-mspiring strains of some tin whistle, 
accompanied by the musical rattle of the 
veritable "bones " of the original Christies. Such 
a disgraceful conduct as this should be put a stop 

A similar annoyance, in Western AustraUa 

in 1 883, was caused by groups of young men — 
"larrikins" — roaming the streets with their 
nightly music: 

Our Freemantle correspondent speaks of the 
intolerable nuisance occasioned by troops of 
young larrikins perambulating the town, rigged 
out as a sort of mock musical bands, with penny 
whistles, concertinas, drums, etc., making night 

hideous with their horrible din. It is not only 
Freemantle which is thus afflicted. Two rival 
troops of perambulating minstrels have, for some 
time past, been persecuting the inhabitants of the 
East end of Perth. . . . Whether this conduct is 
allowable, whether the police have no power to 
interfere, we do not know. But, if it is possible for 
them to put a stop to such an unmitigated 
nuisance — worse than a dozen organ grinders 
put together — the sooner they do it the better."^ 

There was a certain amount of disagreement 
in legal circles over how to treat the noise made 
by temperance workers when they proselytized in 
the street. In 1908, justices discussed an appeal 
concerning a pair of temperance evangelists, one 
on drum and the other on concertina, who had 
been arrested and convicted of obstructing traffic 
when they played on the footpath near a 
carriageway. One judge was sympathetic to the 
religious workers: 

/ do not think that it can be affirmed as a 
proposition of law that a person standing in a 
street playing a dmm or a concertina necessarily 
obstructs the streets. I think it was always a 
mixed question of law and fact whether a person 
is making an unreasonable use of a highway. 

Another was less sympathetic: 

The motives of the defendants cannot affect the 

matter. A horse race or a public entertainment in 
a street would be an obstruction, even if the 
proceeds were to be sent to charity, and if the 
defendants can beat a drum and play on a 
concertina for religious objects, others would be 
entitled to do the same for private gain. . . . It 
was further argued that we should disregard the 
noise of the drum and concertina, because such 
would constitute a nuisance for which the 
defendants might otherwise be punished. I cannot 
agree with this."^ 

The conviction was affirmed. 

Petty crimes and the urban concertina 

The musical activities of those on the lower 
parts of the urban social order are often under- 


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The Anglo-German Concertina 

reported and not well known. Criminal cases, 
such as the one above, often show where the 
concertina was being used, and by whom, during 
its heyday. 

In Brisbane, 1863, there were stiff fines for 
unapproved music in public houses; 

McQuaker, a licensed victualler, appeared upon 
summons, to answer a complaint made against 
him of permitting music in his house without 
permission. Defendant pleaded that he had never 
permitted the music. A lodger in his house took a 
concertina out of his box and began to play while 
he (the landlord) was in the stable, looking after 
the customer 's horse; but he immediately 
returned to the house and stopped the music . . . 
the bench dismissed the case.^'^ 

M Perth, 1890, an omnibus driver was 
having difficulty keeping his mind on his work: 

Ernest Lawrence was charged with being at such 
a distance from his horse and 'bus in Murray- 
street, on the 29th ult., as to have no control over 
it. . . . The defendant frequently left his 'bus 
standing alone in Murray-street, and went 
amongst the girls in Mrs. Dyson 's, and played 
the concertina to them. On the day in question, 
he was playing his concertina in the Empire 
Hotel. After hearing the evidence, the magistrate 
fined the defendant 10s and costs. ^^'^ 

In the Customs House at Brisbane, 1890, "A 
hollow concertina was probably a source of 
discord between the owner and the discoverers of 
the improper use to which it had been put. For 
instead of being full of the very spirit of 
harmony, it was found to have been a receptacle 


for very different spirits indeed." 

Sailors, some of whom played concertinas, 
could be found at the docks of seaside cities, and 
at times things were not smooth sailing, as the 
next two excerpts show. The first was in 
Melbourne, in 1878: 

A disgraceful disturbance took place yesterday 
afternoon on board the Stonewall Jackson lying 

at Sandridge pier [when] a procession of seamen 
marched through Sandridge with ftags flying, 


and headed by a lad named Leydon . . . playing a 
concertina. They made their way down to the 
pier for the purpose of attacking the crew of the 
Stonewall Jackson, who had committed the 
offense of shipping at £3 15s. per month. The 
attacking party consisted of about ten men, who 
were armed with sticks, belaying pins, mauls, 
chain-hooks, and hand-spikes ... a regular 
pitched battle took place. '^^ 

Some visiting German sailors, unwisely 
holding a mock funeral parade while in port in 
Adelaide, got more than they bargained for on 
May 7, 1910. The residents quickly realized that 
the German sailors were mocking the death of the 
British king, Edward Vn, who had died the 
previous day: 

A party of between 18 and 25 seamen from two 
German merchant ships in port were grotesquely 
arrayed, one carrying a big drum, draped in 
black, another a concertina, with black 
streamers, a third wearing a woman 's mourning 
hat, while a fourth had a top hat, round which 
was twisted crepe. . . . The Germans took a 
position on the side of the road, and forming into 
line marched away in procession, beating the 
drum wildly, while the concertina played lively 
airs. This was regarded as an insult by a crowd 
of over a hundred, and angry exclamations and 
jostling followed. Then a blow was struck, and 
the mock mourners were assailed on all sides. . . . 
When the police arrived, the crowd had their 
backs up, and it took a good while to persuade 
them to let the foreign party escape. . . . Many of 
the men returned to their ships badly bruised and 
cut owing to the handling from the crowd.'^^ 

The Salvation Army in Australia 

Given Australia's rough mining towns, large 
numbers of urban poor, and rampant alcohohsm, 
it is not surprising that the Salvation Army 
opened up a significant organization there, very 
soon after its founding by William Booth in 
England. ^^'^ It grew out of the East London 
Christian Mission of 1865, but was renamed the 
Salvation Army in 1878; branches in Australia, 
Ireland and the United States were formed in 

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1880. The Australian branch was started in 
Adelaide, South Australia, but soon expanded to 
many other locations. As in England, North 
America, and New Zealand, the concertina 
provided a key ingredient of the Army's early 
street proselytizing as well as its indoor religious 

The Army's early activities in all countries 
were often met with suspicion, derision, or 
outright hostility as its members paraded in the 
streets, looking for people in need of salvation 
and relief from alcoholism. Publicans in 
particular saw the Army as a competitor because 
of its temperance activities. This visiting 
Englishman's early description of Salvationists in 
Brisbane is not unusual: 

The most entertaining thing I ever saw in 

Brisbane was a small detachment of the 
Salvation Army. They were parading the streets 
in search of truth, and I had the curiosity to go 
up and examine them closely. Their soul-saving 
apparatus consisted of only four blasphemous 
hymn-books, a cracked concertina, and a very 
faded banner that I think had once seen better 
days in the form of a kite. But although their 
technical appliances were rather defective, fate 
had been kind in lavishing upon them a profusion 
of those higher gifts that are indispensable to 
their calling. They all possessed in perfection the 
whining voice, the vicious droop of the eyehd, 
and the peculiar expression of petrified rascality 
about the comers of the mouth, that neither vice 
nor sickness, drink nor toil are capable of 
implanting there, without the assistance of a 
course of open-air piety. I sincerely hope that I 
did not misjudge them. Appearances are very 
deceitfid, and from a short distance I defy anyone 
to tell whether the prima donna was shouting 
Glory, or had just sat down on a tin-tack.'^^ 

The Army was rapidly expanding into the 
suburbs and surrounding towns of Brisbane, as 
well as the mining town of Ballarat. An account 
of 1883 also mentioned that: 

Williamstown is one of the latest places into 

which the standard has been carried, where, to 
quote the War Cry (the Army 's chief publication), 

The Concertina in Australia 

"our usual march took place, consisting of 
soldiers from the Hotham and Collingwood 
corps, accompanied by our brother with the 
hallelujah concertina. Captain Jeanie White led 
the soldiers on to war. " The thoroughgoing 
Salvationists are a sort of Christian dervishes, 
who clap, and jump, and dance, and march until 
physical nature can do no more.'^^ 

In 1885 at Christmastime in Maryborough, a 
port city in Queensland, the publicans took action 
against the Army: 

On Saturday evening an enlarged Skeleton Army, 
organized, it is said, by two prominent publicans, 
followed the train of the Salvation Army through 
Kent-street Some ten or twelve sailors led the 
large crowd of larrikins which followed, the 
offensive mob singing ribald songs, accompanied 
by a concertina and tambourine. A collision with 
the Salvationists was prevented with difficulty be 
the police. . . . Yesterday the excitement 
increased, and this evening the army and the 
opposing forces marched in rivalry in large 
numbers. Altogether nearly a thousand persons, 
including many women and children, were either 
in the processions or alongside. The town is now 
quite thrown into confusion every night by 
uproarious singing if not howling in the streets. It 
is evident some action must be taken.' 

The people in Brisbane were slow to 

appreciate the Army's mission, but were 
watching the actions of their English cousins in 
that regard: 

In our London letter published this morning is an 
interesting reference to the present attitude of 
Convocation towards the religious movement 
known as the Salvation Army. . . . Dr. Tait, the 
Archbishop of Canterbury, had not only 
subscribed to the funds of the Salvation Army, 
but had actually allowed himself to be enrolled 
as one of its members. To many this will convey 
the impossible idea of the venerable prelate, the 
Primate of the English Church, marching 
through the streets to the sounds of a broken- 
down German concertina in a small and ill- 


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The Anglo-German Concertina 

ordered procession headed by a blood-red 
banner. '^^ 

Rival temperance organizations, such as the 
Blue Ribbon movement, were also active in cities 
like Brisbane, where they also used the 
concertina to good advantage as described in this 
1885 account: 

There was a very good audience at a concert in 

the Protestant Hall last night, under the auspices 
of the Blue Ribbon Temperance Workers. Mr. J. 
A. Clark presided, and in his opening address 
stated that during the past three and a-half years 
there had been over 12,000 signatures attached 
to the Blue Ribbon pledge throughout the colony, 
exclusive of those taken during the Booth 
mission. . . . The programme provided was, on 
the whole, a very good one. Mr. Phillips was 
encored for his solo, "There is a flower that 
bloometh "... Mr. Francis also sang two solos. 
Perhaps the most popular performer was Mr. 
Gregory, who played several selections on the 
Anglo-German concertina, and was loudly 
encored.' '^^ 

General William Booth caused great 
excitement when he visited Brisbane in 1895, by 
which time the Salvation Army had grown to be 
generally accepted for its many charitable works. 
At a large gathering at the Opera House, "The 
preliminary proceedings were conducted by 
Colonel Lawley and Major Malon, the latter 
singing a hymn, the concertina accompaniment 


of which was played by Colonel Pollard." 
Booth made a final, farewell tour of Australia in 

1905, and met with large crowds in various cities. 
One such stop was in Adelaide: 

The afternoon meeting, conducted by General 
Booth was the largest that has ever been held in 
the Exhibition, and probably in South Australia. 
The main hall was filled to overflowing, and 
people were standing ten deep at the back. The 
galleries were crowded with a mass of closely 
packed humanity, and even standing room at the 
back of the tiers of seats was difficult to secure. 
The gates were closed shortly before 3 o 'clock, 
and nearly 5,000 people, many of whom had 


arrived from Port Adelaide by train, were unable 
to gain admission. It was estimated that between 
6,000 and 7,000 persons were in the building 
when the service commenced. . . . A choir 
composed of Salvation Army lasses and soldiers, 
together with a brass band, occupied the 
platform. . . . As soon as the general appeared 
the whole audience rose to their feet and cheered 
the venerable leader, but by a gesture he silenced 
them. Then Colonel Unsworth led the meeting in 
prayer. Colonel Lawley sang the salvation hymn, 
"I will try again Thy soldier to he. ' He was 
accompanied by a concertina, played by a 
soldier in uniform.'"' 

By the early twentieth century, as 
temperance needs began to subside somewhat, 
the Army became more and more involved with 
disaster relief and support of soldiers in battle, 
not only in Australia but elsewhere. The 
venerable concertina was replaced by brass bands 
and orchestras; one of its last documented 
appearances with the Salvation Army was in a 
fundraising concert in Hindmarsh in 1915, where 
funds were being sought to purchase more motor 
ambulances for their work at the front in World 
War I: "The Mayor . . . presided over an 
attendance which filled the hall. Adjutant and 
Mrs. Scotney rendered concertina selections, and 
elocutionary items were given by Bandsman 

T -1 "132 


Holidays and excursions 

German and Anglo-German concertinas 
were often at highest use during holidays in the 
cities, in towns, and in rural areas. Moreover, 
writers of the time tended to include more 
activities of middle- and working-class folk in 
their stories and accounts during holiday seasons, 
resulting in numerous descriptions of concertina 

The H.M.S.S. Galatea was in port in 
Melbourne for Christmas in 1867: 

To the men and boys on board it is the one day of 
all the three hundred and sixty five which is fairly 

given up to complete social enjoyment and 
unrestricted mirth and revelry. . . . Feasting, so 

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The Concertina in Australia 

far, was the order of the day, and dinner and 
dessert were followed by dancing on the gundeck, 
and fiddles, concertinas, and accordeons were 
kept going at a rapid rate. Sailors dearly love a 
dance, and during the afternoon and evening they 
enjoyed themselves in this respect to the 

Christmas and New Year's Day take place 
of course in the austral summer, and activities are 
usually outside, as in Melbourne on New Year's 
Day in 1870: 

The Yarra was not so crowded with boating 
parties as on Christmas Day, but there were 
enough out to render a trip up the stream lively, 
without causing a constant fear that some 
awkward upset would occur. The craft were of all 
kinds, from the light sculling outrigger to the 
covered gondola-like boat holding upwards of a 
dozen persons, and there was even a small steam 
vessel which puffed in a very asthmatic manner, 
and had to be bailed out with a leaky pannikin at 
intervals. Nearly every boat was returning from 
some picnic, and there was a good deal of 
singingand concertina-playing amongst the 
occupants, the vocalists invariably running into 
either "Marching through Georgia" or "Ring the 
Bell, Watchman, " whenever two or three musical 
parties came within hearing of each other. 
Beyond a ducking experienced by a sculler, who 
allowed his boat to capsize near Richmond, we 
heard of no untoward occurrence during the day. 


Figure 26 shows a concertina player with his 
girl at just such a picnic dance, where dancing 
revelers can be seen in the background. In the 
Northern Territory, in the small town of Yam 
Creek in 1874, New Year's Eve was perhaps less 
elegant but no less festive: 

As the last hour of the old year was passing away 
numerous reports of pistols, carbines, and other 
firearms were heard in all directions 
intermingled occasionally with the thumping 
sound of Winn's Battery when the feeder was 
either slow in his operations or doing a nap. One 
of the Camps had improvised a Band, consisting 

of a piccolo, a concertina, two kerosine tins, a 
piece of steel, and bones, and these, with a few 
followers marched round to all the camps to wish 
them a Happy New Year, and get a glass of grog. 
The latter, with the drinking of a few healths, a 
song, and any amount of cheering, composed the 
programme, and then the company marched 

Figure 27. Concertina player with lady friend; note the 
dancers in the background at this outdoor picnic. From the 
Sydney Bulletin, late nineteenth century. 

A period drawing of just such a night-time 
"tin kettling" procession is shown in Figure 28. 
This custom was to be found in Western 
Australia as well, where the town of Geraldton 
was celebrating thusly in 1875: 

A new year has opened upon us, and the advent 
was duly celebrated by the portonians of the 
Victoria district by a full band of concertinas, 
triangles, and empty kerosene tins, promenading 
the streets during the night, and driving sundry of 
the inhabitants to distraction. Great credit is due 
to the management of the leader; not asking for 
anything, he simply planted his forces opposite 
your door or window, and discoursed anything 


The Anglo-German Concertina 

Figure 28. A tin-kettling procession, late nineteenth century 
Australia. With thanks to Bob Bolton. 

but sweet sounds, until you shelled out whatever 
the Arabs deemed a sufficient ransome.'^^ 

The smaller the town, the smaller the band, 
as in Boulia, Queensland, 1882, where "...the Old 
Year was rung out and the New Year in, with a 
slight dash of the melodious and exquisite strains 
of a German concertina and a couple of our 
western vocalists who breathed a few appropriate 

Christmastime brought presents for the 
children, which often included inexpensive 
concertinas, as at the Children's Hospital in 
Brisbane in 1892, where "Christmas trees are 
everywhere — laden with dolls, trumpets, 
wooden horses, Jacks-in-the-box, concertinas, 
drums, and hundreds of things which children 
hanker after." '''^ Concertinas were also Yuletime 
fare in Brisbane, in 1895: 

Mr. T. C. Christmas has amply met the popular 
demand for musical presents at this season of the 
year, for within his window is to be found a wide 
variety of instruments, and all kinds of musical 
material. Instruments for children appear in 
endless variety . . . Every concertina in the 
window IS of a different make, and it may be said 
that no two instruments in the display are 



Excursions were popular on Christmas day. 
One such excursion was at the coastal holiday 
town of Pialba, Queensland, in 1896: 

Each afternoon it was estimated that there were 
nearly 3000 men, women and children on the 
sands . . . When night hung its mantle over the 
scene, bonfires twinkled like myriad stars, and 
music arose with its voluptuous swell, the 
concertina being the most favourite instrument, 
whilst a brass band serenaded the hotels and 
private residences. 

In the bush, Christmas was also festive, as 
described in this account from 1905: 

The bush folk have few pleasures, but they cannot 
be said to take them sadly. They rather make the 
best of things. When Christmas time comes, the 
boys go off into the ranges and cut young cherry 
trees — which are not cherry trees — and big fern 
leaves to decorate the house with a brave show of 
green. A great slaughter of poultry and sucking 
pigs takes place, and puddings are boiled and 
cakes baked in readiness for the holiday. Old 
friends come riding in, and brothers who were 
away droving or shearing turn up unexpectedly, 
and sleep on shakedowns before the kitchen 
fireplace. There is a good deal of eating and 
jollity, and in the evening a visit is paid to a 
neighbour 's house, where the young people 
dance to the strains of a concertina, while the 
staider married folk gossip together, the men 
smoking their pipes outside and discussing their 
unfailing politics.''" 

Holiday excursions were quite popular, even 
in small towns such as Beenleigh Queensland, 
where the steamer Heather Bell took some 


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The Concertina in Australia 

Separation Day revelers on an excursion into the 
local bay in 1876. "Music was not wanting, a 
fiddle, concertina, and triangle being at hand to 
sooth any savage breast that might be present."'"*^ 
In a longer such trip from Normanton in 1884, 
the crew provided the music: "The orchestra 
comprised one concertina, one flute, and a 
triangle, and some really capital songs and 
choruses were sung."'"^^ In a "workmen's" 
steamer excursion from Freemantle to Carnac in 
1889, passengers were similarly entertained: 

The proceedings were considerably enlivened by 
a small orchestra, consisting of Mr. Weston with 
the concertina, Mr. Devinish with the violin, and 
Mr. McDavitt with the banjo. The last named was 
particularly amusing with his negro melodies and 
comic ditties, while other vocalists on hoard 
contributed their share of the harmony.''''^ 

Holiday excursions were also made by 

horse-drawn coach, as when some Brisbane 
firemen took an extended trip to Melbourne for 
the Queen's Jubilee in 1887: 

Our boys commanded a good deal of attention on 
all the stations throughout, as we had an 
improvised band on board comprising bugle, 
bones, tambourine, concertina, and loud hearty 
voices, which were used to good purpose on all 
occasions, although I am afraid harmony was 
altogether out of the question. Doubtless the 
members of the team will not forget their trip to 
Melbourne in a hurry.. .^^^ 

In South Australia, 1902, at grape harvest 
time, there was dancing: 

Several of the vignerons at Happy Valley 
celebrated the conclusion of this year 's 
operations by giving a picnic to their employees. 
Leaving Happy Valley at about 8 a.m., the 
pickers and other hands, to the number of over a 
hundred, drove to Brighton Beach, where a 
delightful spot near the jetty was selected for the 
encampment [and] a good number danced on the 
jetty, to the accompaniment of a concertina.^^^ 

The concertina in the military 

Good evidence suggests that the concertina 
was every bit as popular in the military as it was 
in the general population from the 1870s through 
World War I. The town of Sunbury, Victoria, 
now a suburb of Melbourne, was the scene of an 
army camp in 1877, where music enlivened a 
festive special occasion: 

In the evening, the camp was very lively, for, as 
there are so many bands on the ground, they 
were utilized by the respective corps, and a series 
of vocal and instrumental concerts were given. 
One party obtained a band of tin whistles and 
concertinas, and, disguised in most fantastic 
dresses, marched through the camp amid roars of 
laughter. ^''^ 

In 1885, some AustraUan troops were en 
route to Aden to support the Empire's action in 
Sudan, in the SuaMn Campaign: 

By the time we had rounded Cape Leeuwin 

[Western Australia] we were fairly on the voyage 
. . . We began to look about for relaxation in 
some form or another. The men would amuse 
themselves with reading, boxing, singing, and 
card-playing — gambling being prohibited — and 
listening to the band or performing on such solo 
instruments as the men have among them. 
Sometimes they would indulge in an impromptu 
quadrille, to the music of a concertina, very well 
played by one of their number. '^^ 

Lytton, an outer suburb of Brisbane, was the 
scene of an encampment in 1886: 

The rain came down in torrents during mess, and 
continued with very Utile intermission for several 
hours. Consequently, the camp was very quiet, 
and few, except those on sentry duty, were to be 
seen about. The men were all snugly under 
canvas, where they amused themselves in their 
own peculiar way, singing and spinning yams. A 
discordant noise coming from one of the tents, 
proved, on inquiry, to come from a concertina, 
with a vigorous drum accompaniment played on 
a tin basin.''*^ 


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Also at Lytton, three years later, "The men 
generally were quiet, tired in many cases with a 
long march, or perhaps more tedious waiting. 
From some of the tents the strains of concertinas 
were heard, and some of the livelier spirits sang 
rollicking choruses until the 'lights out.'"'"^" 

In 1902, Australian troops were on ships 
again, this time headed for the Boer War. A Red 
Cross observer noted that: 

[T]he South Australian troopers were 
handsomely treated in camp and are excellently 
equipped. Good old South Australia! There was a 
fly in every ointment, and the "musical" men on 
board are the disturbers of the general peace. 
Whenever one has eaten a good tea and had a 
comfortable smoke, some embryo Beethoven 
proceeds to shake things up generally. We have a 
banjo, a concertina, a mouth-organ, a tin 
whistle, half a dozen dogs, and several cats, so 
that "the man who has no music in himself" has 
a bad time when our concert company performs 
in full strength. 

The concertina was busy in Australia during 
World War I as well, although most documented 
sightings are from the home front. At Melbourne, 
in July 1915, the end of "recruiting week" 
generated great excitement: 

At 5 o'clock over 800 men had been passed into 
the army ; at the close of the evening, the last 
figures given were 1,480. One thousand seven 
hundred and fifty-two soldiers were added during 
the day to the colours. . . . Companies of young 
men from various towns . . . decided that it would 
be well all to come to Melbourne altogether. 
Conspicuous among these companies was the 
Kyneton contingent of about 50, who, marching 
from the Spencer street station to the music of a 
concertina, entered the town hall depot amidst 
frantic enthusiasm. 

The concertina was also used to raise war 
funds, as in Adelaide in 1915, where a very large 
crowd had gathered to await election results, 
which were being posted on a large board: 

During the earlier part of the evening, Mr. S. 
Lunn, who had become well known in 
consequence of his efforts on behalf of the 
patriotic funds, secured a seat upon the staging 
in front of the board, and, in full view of the 
electric light, accompanying himself on a 
concertina, he sang to the assembly, and assisted 
to augment Lady Galway's Belgian ftrnd.'^" 


Figure 29. A cigarette paper from World War I, 
depicting an Australian soldier playing the concertina 
in the trenches at Lone Pine, in the Gallipoli campaign 
of 1915, Turkey. 

The Salvation Army was also active in 
Adelaide that year, raising money to buy more 
motor ambulances for the front, and its activities 
included concertinas, as has been discussed 
above. World War I marked perhaps the last 
major military engagement where the concertina 
was commonly played, although it was 
occasionally played at least as late as the 1940s, 
as the singing airmen depicted in Figure 30 


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Figure 30. A concertina-playing air force trainee, who was 
off to Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) with his singing friends, in 
1940. From the State Library of Victoria. 

The Concertina in Australia 

Decline and Revival 
The heyday ends 

As we have seen, the concertina was played 
everywhere in Austraha during its heyday, and 
by a variety of ethnic groups: EngHsh, Welsh, 
Irish, and Scottish to be sure, but also Aborigines 
(at least those who were taught it on Reserves) 
and South Sea Islanders. Players were farmers, 
graziers, miners, bushrangers, street musicians, 
beggars, common laborers, schoolchildren. 
Salvation Army musicians, and soldiers; they 
were primarily members of the middle- and 
working classes. It was an unfamiliar instrument 
only in the parlors of the wealthy, where the 
English concertina was nearly always preferred. 
Although the instrument is best known today for 
its prior use in rural "bush" dances, it was just as 
common in urban dancing saloons. 

The duration of its heyday in Australia can 
be judged by the number of appearances of the 
word "concertina" in digital archives of 
Australian newspapers (Figure 31), less those 
occasions where it was associated with the word 
"wire," (concertina wire being a byproduct of the 
First World War). About 90 percent of these 
"sightings" comes from advertisements. However 
a separate plot made solely of sightings from 
newspaper articles gives approximately the same 
distribution and, as can be seen in that chart, the 
1850s through the 1890s marked the heyday. By 
the early 1900s, usage was dropping 
precipitously. As we have seen, the arrival of the 
gramophone as well as Edison cylinders, 
beginning in the late 1890s, was a key element in 
its decline, A visitor to an Australian dance in 
1902-1905 recorded that "At one time the 
concertina was most in favour, but the bellows- 
music nowadays is coming in a very bad second 
(to the gramophone)."'"^"* As the social dances of 
the nineteenth century gave way to the new 
dances of the ragtime and jazz eras, the old 
polkas and quadrilles lost favor, which hurt the 
concertina's popularity as well. Amateur jazz 
musicians began to favor the ukulele and guitar, 
on which they were much more easily able to 
play the increasingly chromatic notes of the new 


The Anglo-German Concertina 

1^43^ ISSQ^ ISeOs 1^70^ t^Os ISSQs IStKls IdftOs !l^20s 1930^ i94(^ ISSOs 

Figure 31. The number of sightings of the word concertina in Australian newspapers, 1840s to the 1950s, excluding 
those sightrags attached to the word wire. Data compiled from Australian Newspapers Beta, National Library of 
Austialia, July 2009. 

song and dance music (see Chapter 2). 

The chart shows a small resurgence in the 

1910s, which may have been due to increased 
visibiUty of the instrument during World War I. 
By the 1930s, memories of the old social dances 
were fast fading, as was the pubUc's memory of 
the concertina. In 1930, a Melbourne wireless 
(radio) program broadcast a "Farmers' Ball," 
featuring a concertina. A complaint was lodged 
in the newspapers the following week: 

Sir: the item entitled "At the Farmers ' Ball" . . . 
was, to say the least of it, a stupid, insulting, and 
unreal representation of a country dance. Do the 
people responsible for this production think it 
typical of farmers to allow their wives alone to 
take out troublesome horses, to use rough 
language, spoken with a thick tongue, to behave 
in a rough manner toward women in the dance 
room, to sing songs years out of date, and to have 
concertina music for their dances? And do they 
think the old horse still the farmers ' means of 


traveling? Yours, &c., Two Listeners. Smeaton, 
Feb. 25.''' 

The response was quick and sharp, a few 
days later: 

Sir: In reply to "Two Listeners " complaint 
concerning "At the Farmers' Ball" . . . the 
writers are evidently modern farmers, and 
apparently they do not come from the old farming 
stock to which I belong, otherwise they could 
have appreciated the item. Having been brought 
up in the bush, I have attended many dances at 
farms where the only music obtainable was from 
mouth-organ and concertina. I am speaking of 
the days before we were fortunate enough to have 
gramophone, piano-players, and wireless, and 
when people drove long distances to attend these 
dances, and would light their way with hurricane 
lamps. My aunt worked the same as any man, 
taking her share at the plough. So that her sons 
are now able to ride around the farm in a car. 

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The Concertina in Australia 

Surely it would he no hard task for a woman of 
this description to unharness a horse. Yours, &c., 
One Who Appreciated. March 3.'^^ 

The Australian folk revival 

Certainly, by the 1940s and 1950s, the 

concertina was essentially dead as far as the 
newspapers were concerned. And yet, the 
concertina was occasionally remembered, and 
efforts to revive it were made. In 1948 in 
Canberra, "A concertina or piano-accordion is 
being sought by the national fitness center of the 
Health Department to encourage folk-dancing at 
Christmas vacation play-centres from January 4 
to 31."'" The dance was intended for children, 
and the term "folk" dancing was relatively new in 
an Australian context (although well known in 
European contexts); these activities had 
previously been called merely "dances" or 
"balls" in newspapers and journals. This 
advertisement was an early harbinger of the folk 
revival in Australia, where people in urban areas 
started to recreate the "folk" dances and music of 
the part real, part mythic Australian "bush." 

The word "folk" is charged with symbolism. 
In the eighteenth and early nineteenth century, 
German romantics Uke the Brothers Grimm 
developed the idea that the songs of the peasantry 
were the receptacle of the Voltgeist — ^the spirit of 
the people. National movements on both the 
political left and political right have seized on 
this concept to develop ideas of national 
character. '"^^ The first folk revival in England, 
spearheaded by Cecil Sharp in the early twentieth 
century, was conservative in approach; but the 
various folk revivals of the 1950s and 1960s in 
the United States, Britain, and Australia were 
founded on the left side of the political fence, and 
brought the music of the rural "bush" to people in 
the urban centers. Graeme Smith gives a fall 
account of the politics and underpinnings of the 
folk revival in Australia in Singing Australian: A 
History of Folk and Country Music. He 
summarizes it as follows: 

The Australian folk movement has made the 
strongest, boldest claim to represent Australian 
national experience. It was the creation of the 

Australian left in the 1950s who wanted to 
believe that the Australian people were both 
radical and nationalist. They put the traditional 
bushworkers of the late nineteenth century at the 
centre of Australian historical experience and 
drew on well-developed European ideas of 
cultural nationalism in which a nation 's 
distinctive experiences are carried in the ethos of 
its ordinary people, or folk, and also on the 
radical reformulation of these ideas in the 
People 's Song Movement of the US and the 
British folk revival' 

Starting in the 1950s, Australian collectors 
began to fan out across the bush, gathering both 
songs and dance tunes in rural settings. Of 
particular importance to the concertina enthusiast 
is the work of John Meredith, who in the process 
of compiling his two-volume treatise on the Folk 
Songs of Australia, published in 1967 and 1987, 
encountered and recorded the music of a number 
of rural concertina players, as well as the music 
of descendants of former concertina players, 
many of whom had moved on to the accordion 
(more on this below). Meredith, along with later 
folk music collectors like Rob Willis, Warren 
Fahey and Peter Ellis, recorded perhaps a dozen 
or more surviving concertina players from the 
heyday of the instrument. The material from 
these collectors showed up in the coffee houses 
of the late 1950s and early 1960s, and later in the 
music of the "bush band" phenomena of the 
1970s and 1980s. 

As Graeme Smith has noted, the "folk" 
revival movement, not only in Australia but in 
the United States and Britain, put special 
emphasis on the rural peasantry as receptacles of 
what is the essence of the national spirit rather 
than the urban people, who presumably Uved in 
too chaotic and commercially compromised an 
environment to be considered "pure." In 
practical terms for the concertina, this meant that 
nearly all the recordings made of survivor players 
in Australia are from the rural bush. Left 
essentially unrecorded were the concertina 
players of the urban dancing saloons; the urban 
street players and beggars; the music hall and 
vaudeville performers; the Salvation Army 
bands; the South Sea Islanders; the Aborigine 


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The Anglo-German Concertina 

concertina players; the soldiers; the hard-hitten 
miners. To be fair, some of these groups (in 
particular, the miners), had receded into history 
before the folklorists of the 1950s and 1960s 
could have found them. Nonetheless, the 
disparity between nineteenth-century accounts of 
where concertina music was actually played 
(nearly everywhere) versus where it was 
ultimately recorded (in the bush) is real. It 
also should be mentioned that many of the tunes 
recorded in the field by these collectors were 
known elsewhere. In particular, the continental 
European varsovienne (yarsoviana in Australia), 
varied little — in either its dance or in its most 
common tune form — from Australia to Ireland to 
South Africa. Other dance tunes came from 
England and the United States. The late- 
nineteenth-century ballroom dance movement 
was a global phenomenon, and sheet music for 
new tunes was shipped around the world as each 
new ballroom dance was introduced, then passed 
along from musician to musician. As a search 
through Meredith's work will show, the songs 
noted down by collectors were typically derived 
from popular nineteenth-century English music 
haU, Irish sentimental, and American minstrel 
sources. This is hardly the stuff of old Child's 
ballads found growing in a pure rural village; this 
was a late-nineteenth-century rural "foUc" culture 
that seems to have been as well connected with 
the outside world as was its urban counterpart. In 
New South Wales and Victoria, the inland bush 
areas were peppered with prosperous mines such 
as those at Ballarat and Bathurst; these towns had 
opera houses and hosted prominent singers and 
musicians from all over the world. Within this 
amalgamation of outside influences, local 
musicians shaped and modified imported tunes 
for their purposes, and crafted completely new 
tunes to match the template of the globally 
fashionable ballroom dances. 

Notwithstanding the relative lack of urban 
music collecting in the Australian folk revival 
and the fact that the countryside was not the pure 
Australian, untouched folk culture they may have 
sought, the heritage of what was accomplished by 
these idealistic collectors is striking and hugely 
important. More surviving concertina players 

were interviewed and recorded in Australia than 
in Great Britain and Ireland. In the United States 
and New Zealand, none at all made it to shellac 
and vinyl. 

Later, when the late-twentieth-century folk 
revival movement had successfully grown to the 
stage of holding large folk festivals and revived 
"bush"dances — and in the meanwhile raising 
interest in the concertina — there were few 
surviving players to pass tunes and techniques to 
younger players. By the 1980s, John Meredith 
noted that his sources of music and song in the 
bush were dying out, leaving a gap in the folk 

This scarcity of songs and singers exists . . . 
among the revivalist performers — the young folk 
who play with such zest at "bush " dances in the 
suburbs and at folk festivals. In the early days of 
folk revival, the song was the thing, and few 
young folkies " interested themselves in 
traditional dances. Nowadays it is rare to hear 
one of them sing. Playing for what is described 
as a "bush dance " is the popular thing to do. 
Sadly, these— for the most part very talented- 
young musicians have turned their backs upon 
the very tradition they imagine they are keeping 
alive. Almost without exception their music has 
been learned from Irish fiddle-tune books, and 
their repertoires are exclusively jigs and reels. 
Most of the dances they perform have come from 
the same source or have been recently made up . 
. . The programs of these "bush" dances bear no 
resemblance to those of a real bush dance or 
country ball. Completely ignored are the dances 
enjoyed by our forebears — the varsoviana, 
mazurka, schottische, the waltz, and various 
polkas, not to mention the sets, such as the 
lancers, first set of quadrilles, waltz cotillion or 
the Alberts.'^ 

This situation grew from the gap in time between 
the general decline in ballroom-style dancing, 
which occurred in the early twentieth century in 
both urban and rural areas, and the growth of 
interest in all things "folk" that accompanied the 
folk revival in the decades after World War n. In 
short, people had lost the cultural knowledge of 


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The Concertina in Australia 

the old music and of the dances for which it was 
played. Peter Ellis has described those days: 

When the Bush Music Chih formed in Sydney in 
1954 out of a nucleus of followers of the original 
"Bushwhackers " Band (Sydney), the interest was 
in the collection and performance of Australian 
bush songs. There was little knowledge by most 
of these "city slickers " about the actual dances 
that were associated with these "bush tunes. " 
Also, several prominent founders of the 
Bushwhackers ' Band and Bush Music Club were 
members of the Eureka League (communist) and 
viewed folk dance as coming from the people. 
This would have excluded any focus on the 
ballroom derived social dances despite their 
mutation by the folk process in the bush. . . . The 
late John Meredith 's view was that the term Bush 
Dance came into being by association of the 
dances with the Bush Music Club and 
Bushwhackers Band. It was also at a time when 
standard social dancing by the public had been 
in decline for a generation or two. So called 
"bush dancing" became a viable alternative. As 
Shirley Andrews had often complained, it was 
very difficult to find young people, particularly 
males, who could waltz or polka or who could be 
encouraged to learn despite so many of the true 
Australian dances, popular in the bush, relying 
on this accomplished skill. Instead, it proved 
possible to entice these people to take on "learn 
as you go " single figure folk and set dances that 
could be walked through briefly. . . . The patrons 
could gleefully leap and bound about 
unrestricted by earlier social graces. It was the 
time of "instant mania" and "do your own 

Concurrently National Fitness Camps were 
promoting this style of dancing in the form of 

revived British and European folk dances as a 
major part of their recreation. They included 
dances such as Strip the Willow, Lottis Dodd, 
Virginia Reel and Circassian Circle part 2, 
which was previously unknown in Australia by 
that name. . . . This overflowed into a similar 
presentation in the school system and 
particularly as a substitute for sport and physical 
education on rainy days (my own recollection).'^^ 

Beyond the largely historically incongruent 
selection of dance styles, the typical revival 
dance of the 1970s and 1980s was strikingly 
different in the component musical 
instrumentation of its "bush band" than the bush 
original. As Graeme Smith noted of the bands of 
that era in the folk revival, "The bush band is an 
ensemble of about five musicians, containing at 
least one singer, one melodic instrument player, a 
rhythm guitarist, and a bass and rhythm 
section."'*^ A rock 'n' roll style drum set was not 
atypical. The bass was often an electric bass, and 
the rhythm guitar was also often electric. As 
Meredith noted in 1967 of his own folk music 
collecting in the bush, "Of the hundreds of items 
forming the basis of this book, not one tune was 
played upon nor a single song accompanied by a 
fretted instrument."'^^ The Australian musical 
world of the late nineteenth century was heavily 
dominated by free-reed concertinas, mouth 
organs and accordions, along with fiddles, flutes 
and tin whistles. 

Meredith's source material came from the 
last remnants of the heyday of rural dance music, 
which was coincident with that of the concertina. 
The first-hand period documents that are 
included in this present report and discussed 
above, which were collected from accounts 
stretching back into the 1850s, are in close 
agreement with Meredith's oral history sources. 
The music for these rural dances, as well as their 
urban counterparts (excepting where a military 
brass band was supplied), was typically suppHed 
by only one to three musicians, who usually 
played concertinas, fiddles, flutes, and tin 
whistles. When a rhythm section was present, it 
consisted of either the bones or a triangle; drums 
were not present except in street processions, like 
those of the Salvation Army. Drums were not 
typical in indoor settings. Nineteenth-century 
ears were very sensitive to sound, especially 
harsh sounds — witness the critical comments 
about concertinas in many of the above 
"sightings." Chords, like those now supplied by 
rhythm sections, were not always received 
kindly, and if provided were done so by a gently 
played piano or a harmonium- seemingly never a 


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The Anglo-German Concertina 

A large segment of the folk movement in the 
past twenty years has been involved in righting 
the understandable miss-steps of early folk- 
revival efforts, which initially operated partly in 
the dark of cultural amnesia while music 
collectors and other researchers filled in the 
cultural gaps, especially in regard to tunes and 
dances. The Sydney Bush Music Club now hosts 
"Colonial" and "Heritage" dances and full-dress 
balls that adhere to the traditional ballroom styles 
of the late- nineteenth-century Australian rural 
and urban originals, while still offering some of 
the folk- revival, "bush-style" dances that were 
popularized in the 1980s. The Bush Dance and 
Music Club, formed in 1979 in Bendigo, 
Victoria, a town about 100 miles northwest of 
Melbourne, aims to "research, preserve and 
promote and perform Australia's tradition and 
heritage of Colonial and Old Time Bush Dance 
and its relevant music," and it has published a 
large amount of material on the old dances. The 
Victorian Folk Music Club was founded in 
Melbourne in 1955, during some of the first 
activities of the folk revival in Australia. They 
too host bush dance activities, including both the 
publishing of dance tune books (e.g., the 
Collector's Choice series of Peter Ellis) and 
sponsoring the Nariel Valley Folk Festival. The 
residents of the Nariel Valley, Victoria also host 
dances and music sessions in the old style. 

The Wongawilli Colonial Dance Club was 
founded in 1987 in the lUawarra region, south 
coastal New South Wales. It has published a 
number of books and pamphlets about traditional 
Australian music and dance, including the 
Pioneer Performer Series of Rob Willis, Dave de 
Santi, and others. Another bush music 
organization of note is Bush Traditions, 
committed, like the Bush Dance Music Club, to 
music and dance preservation. It hosts annual 
dances and workshops in Goulbum, New South 
Wales, and its website hosts an Anglo-concertina 
tutor oriented toward Australian styles of 
playing, prepared by David Johnson. 

Finally, an important addition made during 
the folk revival movement to the understanding 
of the concertina's history in Australia was the 

Concertina Magazine, published and edited by 
Richard Evans of Bell, New South Wales in the 
1980s. Its pages, still available in reprinted 
versions, contain an extensive set of interviews 
and analysis of the old bush players, as well as 
information on old concertina builders Uke John 

Last of their kind: surviving players of the 
concertina's heyday 

What follows is a series of vignettes of 
many of recorded "survivor" concertina 
players — those concertina players bom during 
the latter years of the concertina's heyday in 
Australia who were interviewed by folk music 
collectors in the 1950s to 1970s. Of this group, 
eight transcriptions were made of six players 
(Fred Holland, Clem O'Neal, Dooley Chapman, 
Con KUppel, Jim Harrison and Charlie Ordish) in 
order to study the playing styles they used; these 
transcriptions are included in Chapter 10. 
Remarkably, all of these players, as well as other 
Australian players for whom recordings were 
available, played using the octave technique — 
each hand plays the full melody, with the right 
hand notes an octave higher than those of the 
left — and they all seem to have typically played 
in the key of C. This is very much in parallel with 
most late nineteenth and early twentieth century 
players for rural house and bam dances in 
Ireland, England, and South Africa, as has been 
discussed in Chapters 2,3, and 5. The demands of 
playing for rural house and wool shed ("bush") 
dances, where a solo concertina player could play 
all night long without assistance, were such that a 
straightforward technique with plenty of volume 
was needed. 

Many of these surviving players are from 
Mudgee and its surrounding region. New South 
Wales (Figure 32), primarily an agricultural area 
producing cattle, sheep, wheat, fruit, and honey. 
It is a hilly area, with outcrops that produce 
quarries for clay, dolomite, and coal; those 
hillsides today host a major wine-growing 
industry. The region's first European settlers 
were from England in the 1820s, and it was 
flooded with miners a few decades later. 


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The Concertina in Australia 

Figure 32. Map of the concertina-rich area around Mudgee, New South Wales. The 
locations of eight towns where noted surviving players of the concertina's heyday 
in Australia lived are highlighted. 

The area to the east and northeast of Bathurst was 
a major gold-mining area, of which Bathurst was 
the administrative center, although mining was 
very much on the decline during the younger 
days of the survivor players listed below. Poet 
Henry Lawson, whose poem about the concertina 
was included above, was from Mudgee. 

Fred Holland (1869- 1958) was a stockman, 
sheep shearer and gold miner (Figure 33). Born 
near Mudgee, New South Wales, he spent all of 
his life in that district. He played for school and 
country dances, often playing with concertina 
players Walter Allen and Alec Orth. He played a 
Stanley concertina that was made in Bathurst. 
According to John Meredith, Holland lived in a 
particularly inaccessible valley set in steep hills, 
an area still without electricity in the 1950s. The 
existing recordings, made by Meredith when 
Fred was eighty-eight-years-old, record a sparse 
playing style with few ornaments, accented 
mainly by frequent octave notes and only an 
occasional chord. This style is typical of many of 
the old Australian players, and was well suited to 
the rhythmic requirements of the dance. He is 
noted for his versions of the Mudgee Waltz and 
Mudgee Schottische A transcription of his 
Mudgee Schottische is included with the 
transcriptions of Chapter 10. 

Holland played a Bb/F concertina; the 
Mudgee Schottische is here transposed so that his 
fingerings and the transcribed notes fit a C/G. 
The tune is played mostly on the C row, with 
occasional brief ventures onto the G row. 
Holland played nearly entirely in octaves, like 
most other old time players in Australia who 
were recorded. It should be noted that the entire 
A part is reasonably easily played on the G row, 
an octave up, but clearly that was not Holland's 

In the Cooks Gap area, near Ulan in New 
South Wales, Meredith took down tunes from 
Jim Lyons and Fred Large in the 1950s. Jim 
Lyons, born in the 1880s, also lived without 
electricity, and gave Meredith a variant of the 
Mudgee Schottische. Fred Large was bom in the 
first decade of the twentiethth century. His father. 
Bill Large (1868-1956; see Figure 34), also 
played the concertina and was known as "one of 
the best concertina players of Cooks Gap. He 
made some Edison cylinder recordings around 
1912, but they have never been found. Among 
his tunes, preserved by his son Vic, are some 


The Anglo-German Concertina 

Figure 33. Fred Holland, of Mudgee New South Wales, with 
his John Stanley concertina, 1957. He is demonstrating the 
old practice of waving the concertina for emphasis during the 
playing of dance tunes. Photograph by John Meredith, in the 
archives of the National Library of Australia. 

Figure 35. Walter Allen of Home Rule, New South 
Wales, and his concertina, ca. 1957. Photograph by 
John Meredith, in the archives of the National 
Library of Australia. 

Figure 34. Bill Large (1868-1956), prominent concertina 
player of Cooks Gap, New South Wales. From a family 
photograph ca. 1940, collected by John Meredith, in the 
archives of the National Library of Australia. 

Figure 36. Doddy Murphy of Bathurst, New South Wales, 
with his concertina, 1983. Photograph by John Meredith, 
in the archives of the National Library of Australia. 


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The Concertina in Australia 

Alec Orth. Mudgee-area concertina and 
accordion player Alec Orth was not recorded by 
Meredith, but accordion player Orley Benson of 
Mudgee learned several tunes from him in 1940. 
One was I'll Be All Smiles Tonight, an American 
song written by T. B. Ranson in 1879 and first 
recorded in Virginia in 1926. This tune was also 
played by concertina players in South Africa at 
this same time, known there as Die Kalfie Waltz; 
good tunes spread like wildfire across the globe 
in the late nineteenth century. Orth also played 
the popular sentimental song Only a Leaf}^^ 

Walter Allen, of Gulgong New South Wales 
(Figure 35), was a Mend of Fred Holland's as 
well as Orley Benson. Benson told stories of 
Walter Allen and his friend Ernie "Son" James 

[They] would play for a dance, one on the 
concertina, and the other on a fiddle, and how, 
such was their versatility, after each dance they 

would exchange instruments and play on. . . . 
Walter Allen, who lived in a little galvanised iron 
cottage, would, during a heat wave, put his 
precious concertina into a sack and lower it half- 
way down the well to keep it cool and preserve 
the tone. . . . Ona Saturday morning Walter 
Allen would bring his concertina into Mudgee 
and visit his old friend Stan Gudgeon who had a 
sports store in Church Street. When he began to 
play crowds would assemble in the street until 
the traffic was brought to a standstill.'^ 

James was a nephew of Walter Allen's; he 
played an old German concertina and was 

recorded by Meredith, playing The Bullfrog Hop, 
The Cornflower Waltz, and The Berlin Polka }'^'^ 

Daniel "Doddy" Murphy (b. 1917) was from 
Bathurst, New South Wales, as was his father 
Michael Murphy (b. 1874), also a concertina 
player. Doddy Murphy's grandfather was an Irish 
immigrant. Murphy (Figure 36) played both 
button accordion and concertina. Most of his 
tunes were song-tunes, many of Irish origin, but 
others were of modem popular music origins.'^'' 

Susan Colley came from Duramana, a pioneer 
village about fifteen miles north of Bathurst in 
New South Wales. Colley was bom Susan 
Pateman ca. 1884. Her father was a bullock 
driver and farmer, who lived on ninety acres near 
Duramana. Most of what we know of her playing 
is from recordings of her songs made by Percy 
Gresser of Bathurst along with members of the 
Bush Music Club of Sydney in 1965, copies of 
which are housed at the National Library of 
Australia; as well as field recordings made by 
Warren Fahey in 1973. Gresser noted of her 
family that "One family in particular, the 
Pateman family, and close neighbours of my 
people, were outstanding as concertina players. 
Not one of them ever had a lesson in music and 
one of the girls, Lottie, was an exceptional 

Duramana' s heyday as a pastoral village was 
in the late nineteenth century. Gresser described 
the village's dances: 

There was no public hall for the holding of 
dances and such-like functions. But dances were 
frequent. The younger folk, and some not so 
young, would congregate at the residence of a 
neighbour or acquaintance, coming by springcart 
(before the advent of the sulky), horseback or 
foot, and dance the whole night through to the 
music of a concertina or accordian. (They 
would) dance the Quadrilles, Lancers and 
Alberts, polkas, mazurkas, old time waltzes, etc., 
until after sun-up next morning. More than one 
residence was built so that a partition between a 
couple of rooms could be readily removed in 
order to have sufficient space for the holding of a 

Gresser meticulously recorded the words of 
scores of songs from Susan Colley; many of them 
she had learned from her father, and he from his 
father. Gresser recalls that: 

Mrs. Colley also informed me that one of her 
earliest recollections was hearing her father 
singing Bonnie Moon as he would be riding home 
from work through the bush during moonlight 
nights. After Mrs. Colley was married her home 
was situated for a number of years in a valley 


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The Anglo-German Concertina 

surrounded by hills, and she told me that she and 
her sister, Clara, would, on a summer 's night, get 
a concertina each, seat themselves outside the 
house and play together hour after hour In order 
to hear the music echoing around the hills J ^' 

The wide variety of songs in her repertoire 

shows the global resources available to the 
working class resident of even the smallest out- 
of-the way Australian hamlet at the turn of the 
last century. A large number were from the 
American minstrel shows, like Massa's in de 
Cold Cold Ground, Old Black Joe, Fse Gwine to 
Dixie; Nellie Grey, and Lillie Dale. Many were 
Irish sentimental favorites of the late nineteenth 
century, like Kathleen Mavourneen, Mother 
Machree, Endearing Young Charms, and The 
Rose of Tralee; some were EngUsh Music Hall 
tunes, like Two Little Girls in Blue, and Wait 'Till 
the Clouds Roll By. Others came out of the early 
American country music repertoire, such as I'll 
Be All Smiles Tonight, and some dated back to 
the California gold rush days, like Clementine. A 
fair number of songs were Australian in origin, 
like The Wild Colonial Boy, and Botany Bay. 
Few were anything that a folk collector of 
Child's Ballads would find interesting, but these 
were the tunes passed from person to person in 
the Australian Bush. 

Susan CoUey's repertoire of dance tunes 
primarily consisted of waltzes, mazurkas, polkas, 
and varsovianas, as well as tunes for set dances — 
quadrilles Uke the Lancers and the Alberts. 
Warren Fahey's recordings of her were made 
when she was in her nineties. As befits that of 
most AustraUan players, her style was melodic 
and sparsely (if at all) ornamented by grace 
notes; she played for the dance. She used 
frequent octave notes for emphasis and volume, 
and in doing this she often substituted a note a 
third up from the lower octave, which gave a 
harmony to her playing. She did not often use full 

Clem O'Neal (1912-1980) came from h-on Bark, 
now called Stuart Town, a New South Wales 
mining town that lay in a particularly concertina- 
rich district; his town is about thirty miles west- 
southwest of Mudgee (the home of Fred 


Holland), fifty miles south of Cobborah (Dooley 
Chapman), forty miles northwest of Duramana 
(Susan CoUey), and forty miles southwest of 
Gulgong (Walter Allen). Later in life he moved 
to Sydney, where he became aware of the folk 
music revival in the 1970s as a result of the LP 
record Bush Traditions produced by Warren 
Fahey. O'Neal made a number of concertina and 
button accordion recordings for members of a 
concertina session that took place in the 
Wentworth Park Hotel in Sydney at that time. 
He later recalled that until those events he had 
not seen another concertina player for forty years, 
and that he was the last player who had learned 
"by ear" in his district. A brief biography of him 
appeared in Concertina Magazine in 1982, from 
which the following is excerpted.'^^ 

Both O'Neal's father and grandfather were 
also bom in Iron Bark; his great-grandfather 
seems to have come to Australia after the 
Wicklow rebellion in Ireland, in 1828. He 
learned the concertina at the age of ten, after an 
unsuccessful stint on the violin. His first 
instrument was a 20-keyed German concertina, 
but he later played Lachenal Anglo-German 
concertinas. According to O'Neal, the primary 
source of new tunes in his younger days was 
from people returning from trips, and the 
modifications of the "folk" process started then: 

The only way things was, was that someone 
would go away on a shearing trip and he 'd 
remember part of a music, part of something. 
He 'd have to keep it in his head; when he came 
back perhaps he 'd remember only part of it. So to 
make up a dance tune, he 'd probably remember 
parts of three bits of different things which 
someone had played in a town or somewhere or 
other, and he 'd combine them together. Someone 
else would hear him play that, and eventually 
new tunes got created from one listening to the 
other and these seemed to go right up and down 
some twenty or thirty miles along the river. 

O'Neal's tunes were nearly all ballroom 
dance tunes: polkas, waltzes, schottisches, 
mazurkas, and such. He recalled that: 

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The dances were out in country places, mostly in 
the houses (which normally had) dirt floors or 
flagstone floors. Quite a lot of the houses were 
small. Some people danced inside the house and 
quite a lot danced outside the house. The 
concertina player moved about from room to 
room carrying the concertina . . . and so there 
were times when those outside couldn 't hear him. 
The player just moved around in among them and 
some (players) actually waltzed in time with them 
to get through. 

An example tune from O'Neal, Varsoviana, 
is included in Chapter 10. This tune was nearly 
universal, and is still known among musicians 
and dancers in England, Ireland, and the United 
States. O'Neal plays it completely on the C row, 
and nearly completely in octaves. 

Albert George "Dooley" Chapman (1892- 
1982; see Figure 37), was born in Coborrah, New 
South Wales, north of Mudgee. In later years he 
moved to Dunedoo, a larger farming town 
nearby. In his eighties, he met folk-revival 
concertina-player Tom Bromley in Dunedoo, and 
later met a young concertina player of the folk 
revival, Chris Sullivan. The two recorded him in 
1981, a year before he died. Some of those 
recordings have been issued as a CD, Your Good 
Self the best and most easily accessible of the 
recordings of Australia's old players. The 
biographical notes that follow were summarized 
and modified from Chris's Uner notes to that CD, 
as well as from an earlier biographical sketch by 
Chris in Concertina Magazine The quotes 
from Dooley Chapman are from his recorded 

Chapman played the concertina for rural 
dances in a wide part of his district in the first 
two decades of the twentieth century. Although 
of English descent, his parents were both bom in 
New South Wales; his mother was from 
Coborrah. In his younger years. Chapman was a 
farmer, but he later built concrete silos and sheep 
dips for a living. His was a musical family; his 
father and an uncle played violin, and his 
brothers and sisters played violin, concertina, and 
piano. Chapman began playing concertina at the 
age of ten, and began playing for local house 

The Concertina in Australia 

parties and dances. His tunes reflect a global tune 
resource. Many of the dances had English and 
Scottish origins, like the Alberts Quadrille and 
the Highland Schottische. He played a 
breakdown to the tune of Ring the Bell 
Watchman, an American song of Civil War 
vintage that was also in Susan Colley's repertoire. 
Old Dan Tucker came from the minstrel shows, 
his Varsovienne from continental Europe. Others 
appear to be of local origin. 

Figure 37. Dooley Chapman, onstage with Chris 
Sullivan, 1982. At the time, Chapman was 90 years 
old; this photo was taken just before he passed away. 
Photograph by Bob Bolton. 

Chapman's musical mentor was his cousin 
Billy Chandler (ca. 1870-1905), who played a 
Bb/F concertina made by lohn Stanley of 

fMy] brother Fred always said that I played the 
same as Billy Chandler. . . . See, Fred played 
more up and down straight on the keys (in other 
words, along the row), see that 's a bit different. 
Well, they didn 't all play the same. 

What was "different" was the two-row 
octave style that Chandler, Chapman and other 


The Anglo-German Concertina 

skilled Australian players used; more on that in 
Chapter 10. Billy Chandler played for dances all 
over the region, using a bicycle for transport: 

I've seen him leave Coborrah there of an evening 
making to Lue to play for a dance. . . . Mudgee's 
fifty mile, and another twenty down to where he 

was playing for the dance. . . . [TJhat 's a long 
way to ride, don 'tyou reckon! . . . Of course, 
Lue 's not the only place, other places as well. 

Like Billy Chandler, Dooley Chapman was 
to play in a variety of towns and hamlets in the 
region. He also played with other concertinists in 
his district, such as Walter Allen of Home Rule, 
and Ernie "Son" James of Mudgee, mentioned 
earlier. It was through interchanges like these that 
tunes were passed from player to player. As bush 
dances were dying out in the 1920s, he extended 
his playing days by teaming up with his sister 
Grace on piano. He played for dances as late as 
World War II, as feelings of Australian 
patriotism rose during the war. 

Chapman's repertoire, closely copied from 
his mentor Billy Chandler, reveals the key dances 
of his era: couples dances (also called round 
dances) like waltzes, polkas, mazurkas, 
schottisches, breakdowns, and varsovianas; as 
well as set dances, which were principally 
quadrilles such as the Lancers and the Alberts. 
He also played the odd jig for step dancers, 
although the ballroom dance styles were more 
central to his experience.'^"* 

Chapman pointed out that not all concertina 
players were equal, and that the techniques for 
playing for dancers had to be carefully learned. 
Of those who didn't have the proper skills, he 

They weren 't as good as the best of them, that 's 
for sure. See, the time wouldn Y be there. No, no. 
See the waltz and the schottische, all them was 
all to the step. What you'd find even in many 
players, you put them out to play for the dancers 
and see where they are. See the waltz, the 
schottische and the varsoviana and that. See if 

they 're on to the step. Well, what are they 

The tunes had to be accurately played, as 
well; this was a dancing crowd with high 

When I was playing, if only I missed a note, by 
God, you 'd see them look 'round, yes that 's right 
. . . they 'd had it, if you only missed one note! 
Which didn't happen too often then, lean assure 

Two tunes from Dooley Chapman, a 
Lancers Tune and Old Dan Tucker, are included 
with the transcriptions in Chapter 10. Both tunes 
are to be found on a recently released CD of his 
playing (see the section on Resources, below). 
Chapman, who played in an octave style, plays 
the Lancer's Tune in the key of C, in a two-row 
octave manner, where he weaves the melody 
back and forth between the C row and the G 
row. The basic techniques of two-row octave 
playing are discussed in some detail in Chapter 
10. In general, lower passages are played on the 
C row, and higher passages on the G row. 

Old Dan Tucker is played in a similar two- 
row octave marmer, starting on the G row. The 
tune begins in the key of C, but changes to the 
key of G in the B and C parts. The use of an F# 
in the A part is not in keeping with the rest of that 
passage, which is clearly in the key of C; Dooley 
apparently likes the odd dissonance that that note 

Other New South Wales players. Farther west 
from the Mudgee region, but still in New South 
Wales, John Meredith interviewed concertina 
players Lionel Pietsch of Forbes and Bill Chun of 
Parkes in the 1950s, although less is known of 
their playing activities. Pietsch was a local 
undertaker, and played the English concertina, 
presumably for funerals.'^* Percy Yamold of 
Wingham, about 200 km northeast of Sydney, 
was also interviewed at that time; a field tape of 
his playing is at the National Library. On it he 
plays waltzes, schottisches, and set dance tunes. 


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The Concertina in Australia 

Figure 38. Location of the Nariel Valley, northeastern Victoria, showing several locations noted for 
concertina players. The farming district of Berringama was the home of Con Klippel, and the town of 
Khancoban was the birthplace of Jim Harrison. Charlie Ordish's grandson Ian Simpson builds 
concertinas today at Nariel Creek. 

Players in the Nariel Valley area. Another 
group of recorded players comes from the Nariel 
Valley and surrounding area of Victoria and New 
South Wales (Figure 38). The Nariel Valley rests 
in a hilly region of northeastern Victoria, in 
Banambra County along the border with New 
South Wales. The economy relies upon a mixture 
of agriculture and forestry; there are eucalyptus 
and pine plantations. The large Alpine National 
Park, underlain by the Great Dividing Range, lies 
to its east. Like the Mudgee area, there were 
active mines in the region around the Valley in 
the gold rush era, but that activity was on the 
wane by the time the survivor players listed 
below were in their youth. 

Conrad Charles "Con" Klippel (1909-1975; 
see Figure 39) was born in Berringama, Victoria, 
not far from the Nariel Valley along the road 
from Corryong to Tallangatta; his story is told in 
a charming collection of dance music of that 
district. Music Makes Me Smile, compiled by 
Peter Ellis and Harry Gardner. Con's grandfather, 
also Conrad Charles Klippel (b. 1838), had 
immigrated to Australia in 1854 from Essen 
Germany, following the gold rush in Ballarat and 
later Yackandandah. He played an early flutina, 
and brought several distinctive Germanic dances 

to the area. Con's father, also Conrad Klippel, 
worked as a bullock driver and played concertina 
on those wagon trips, as well as for local dances. 

Con Klippel, the grandson of the German 
immigrant, worked in many jobs, some related to 
farming, the others involving insurance sales and 
managing a fleet of school buses. He mostly 
played accordion, but also played concertina and 
a variety of other instruments, and was 
instrumental in reviving old time music and 
dance in the Nariel Valley in the 1960s and 
1970s. He died on stage while playing his 
concertina for a dance. 

Klippel composed a number of songs and 
tunes. In addition, his dance tune repertoire 
contained a variety of waltzes, schottisches, set 
tunes, and polka mazurkas. A tune of Klippels, 
The Manchester Galop, is included amongst the 
transcriptions in Chapter 10. According to family 
history, this tune was brought to AustraUa from 
Germany by Klippel's immigrant grandfather. 
The Galop originated in either Hungary or 
Germany, and arrived in Vienna and Berlin by 
the early 1820s; it arrived in Paris and London in 
1829. It is a vigorous dance, and for that reason 
was often the last dance of the evening. This tune 
is played by Con Klippel in C, entirely on the C 
row, in octaves. Con Klippel was fond of 


The Anglo-German Concertina 

swinging his concertina around in a windmill 
pattern, and it is likely that such an action 
occurred in the first, fourth and fifth measures. 

Figure 39. Con Klippel with two-row Anglo- 
German concertina, ca. 1970. With thanks to Peter 
Ellis and Keith Klippel. 

Klippel's version of The Manchester Galop 
shows one accommodation that single-row 
players would necessarily make when playing in 
octaves (see Chapter 3, Evolution of Irish Playing 
Styles, for definition of terms). The high B notes 
in measures one and five are a bit awkward, 
because the pinkie finger on the right hand must 
reach to the fifth button on the row to play them. 
A similar passage in measures ten and fourteen is 
more difficult still, because to keep the tune 
completely in octaves, the pinkie would have to 
play two notes in a row on two different buttons 
in rapid succession (B followed by A, in 
octaves). Con Klippel handles this potential 
problem by deleting the high A (on the right 
hand), only playing its lower octave note (on the 
left hand). Other players — Dooley Chapman in 


particular — would likely have moved the 
fingering of the higher passages to the higher- 
pitched G row, where they are much easier to 
play. The trade-off is the need to go to two-row 
fingering, which evidently was not Klippel's 
preference. Australian players seem to have been 
either single-row or two-row octave players. In 
Ireland, the mysteries of two-row octave 
techniques were something one learned from a 
teacher, as John Kelly remembered from his 
youth (see Chapter 3). 

Con Klippel's son Keith Klippel, a third- 
generation concertina player and fourth- 
generation free-reed player, continues the 
tradition with local dances, although hampered 
by a stroke at a young age.'^^ Many tunes from 
the playing of Keith and Con Klippel are 
included in the aforementioned volume by Peter 
Ellis and Harry Gardner. 

Jim Harrison (1911-ca. 2000: see Figure 40) 
was bom in Khancoban, New South Wales, just 
to the northeast of the Nariel Valley, and just 
slightly across the state boundary from Victoria 
(Figure 37). He learned the violin in school, but 
later played mouth organ, piano, button 
accordion, concertina, and mandoHn. He 
remembers that the first tune he played on the 
violin was Ring the Bell, Watchman, a popular 
American tune of the Civil War era to which the 
Australian song Click Go the Shears was later 
appended. He married in 1934, and had four 
children. He was a dairy farmer, and trapped 
rabbits for extra income. 

He played for dances in the Khancoban 
School with his friend Rob Scammell; both 
played accordion and concertina. Sometimes they 
ventured into Nariel valley, as well as the district 
around Corryong, to play for dances. In the 
1960s, he joined with his friend Con Klippel in 
the Klippel family's band and dance activities in 
the Nariel Valley. Peter Ellis relates that he "was 
a showman on the concertina, and could play a 
cossack-type dance (frog dance) on his haunches 
whilst playing, and in fact one night pulled the 
instrument in half."'^^ He also enjoyed swinging 
the concertina around, windmill fashion, for the 
effect on the instrument's tone. 

The Concertina in Australia 




" 'i ' 



Figure 40. Jim Harrison of Khancoban, New South Wales, 
with his concertina, 1986. Photograph by John Meredith; 
from the archives of the National Library of Australia. 

Harrison's repertoire was rich in waltzes, 
polkas, mazurkas, varsovianas, and set dance 
tunes, as well as songs. Harrison was a button 
accordion player in his later years, but in a field 
recording made by Peter Ellis and Ian Simpson in 
1982, he plays the German concertina of his 
youth. One of his dance tunes. Princess Polka, 
provides a good example of his playing 
technique, and is included along with the 
transcriptions in Chapter 10. Like other 
Australian players, Hanison plays in octaves. 
The tune is in C, and the A part (measures 1-8) is 
played entirely on the C row. Harrison freely 
dropped octave notes when difficulties — either 
in the form of extra low notes or notes with fast 
transitions — were met, as in measures one, three, 
and five. The B part, starting in measure 9, 
moves back and forth from the C to the G row; 
like Chapman, Harrison was a two-row octave 
player. Also like Chapman, Harrison frequently 

used a dissonant F#, even though the tune itself is 
in C. With some experimentation, one can see 
that those passages with the F# seem more easily 
played with a more "correct" but much less 
interesting F natural. 

Harrison clearly like the dissonant effect of 
the F#, and also used it in Killaloo, an Irish stage 
song from the music halls (also in the 
transcriptions of Chapter 10). The tune is in C, as 
is most of the early Australian concertina 
repertoire. For emphasis, Harrison plays double 
octaves (three notes at a time, each an octave 
apart) for the C notes in the first five measures, 
and often drops out octave notes in between to 
exaggerate the beat at the expense of the off 
beat. He repeats this process in measures thirteen 
and fourteen. He also drops the occasional octave 
note in triplet runs, as in measure 7. 

Charlie Ordish (d. 1966) was another of the 
early-twentieth-century Nariel Valley concertina 
players, and a good friend of Con Klippel's and 
Jim Harrison's. Ordish (Figure 41) was a wagon 
driver who drove a team of nine horses on the 
two-day run from Corryong to Tallangatta, New 
South Wales. As his grandson Ray Simpson has 

[H]e played music as the horses walked the track 
as they knew where they were going ; he played 
the month organ , banjo mandolin, tin whistle, 
concertina, accordion, mandolin ,violin (and the 
piano at home ). He whistled his dance 
tunes while he worked. He would stop along the 
way at camp fires belonging to other travellers or 
bidlock teams and play music and sometimes at 
people 's houses for birthdays and other such 
family celebrations. The homestead kitchen or 
the local school would have the furniture 
removed and dance was soon under way. . . . As 
time went on and the automobile put his wagon 
team out of business he turned his hand to 
carpentry, a trade his father (an English ship 's 
carpenter) passed on to him. He would spend 
weeks at a country town or homestead and biuld 
sheds, houses and do renovations for people 
during the day and of course play music at 


The Anglo-German Concertina 

Figure 41. Charlie Ordish, with concertina, at a Nariel 
Valley music gathering in the 1960s. With thanks to Peter 
Ellis and Dave de Santi. 

Charlie Ordish and his friend Jim Harrison 
"took great delight in swinging their concertinas 
in big loops overhead while playing, and Charlie 
would get niggly if there were too many 
musicians onstage to cramp his style. He would 
then stand on a chair to perform."'^" Charlie's 
grandsons Ian Simpson and Ray Simpson are 
concertina players in Victoria; Ian builds Anglo 
concertinas in the district of Nariel. Ordish was 
recorded informally with Jim Harrison and Con 
KUppel in the 1960s; the recording is in the 
Norm O'Connor collection at the National 
Library of Australia. A field recording of Ordish, 
in the possession of his grandson Ray Simpson, 
contains Kelvin Grove, a transcription of which is 
in Chapter 10. It is played in the key of C, and is 
played using the octave technique that seems to 
have been shared among all recorded Australian 


players. Ordish plays the tune in a single-row 
octave style, entirely on the C row. 

Other players in Victoria. Em Potter and his 
Em Potter Old Time Dance Band (Figure 42) 
were active in western Victoria, playing for 
dances and balls in the towns of St. Arnaud, 
Stawell, and Ararat from the 1940s to around 
1970. Besides Em Potter on Anglo concertina, 
the band included fiddle, button accordion, piano 
accordion, trumpet, and dmms. Like other 
Australian old-time dance bands, they played 
waltzes, schottisches, set dances, polkas, barn 
dances, and two-steps. They played without 
amplification for crowds that typically numbered 
from three hundred to six hundred people. By 
this time in St. Arnaud, there were two halls; one 
for modern dances and one for old-time dances. 
Also in that region, Johnny Boughton played 
concertina with his fiddle-playing friend Jack 
Cummings at Berrimal, a farming district perhaps 
ten miles northeast of St. Amaud. Of them, Peter 
Ellis recalled that they "would walk 5 miles 
through the bush playing concertina and fiddle all 
the way, play for the dance in a mud brick bam 
all night, Johnny swinging the concertina 
overhead, get a Uttle 'shicker' and then walk the 
5 miles home again, still playing all the way."'^' 
There were no recordings made of Boughton, but 
Boughton' s friend Ted Vallance, working with 
Peter Ellis, has made transcriptions of some of 
the basic tunes Boughton played. 

The concertina in Australia today 

There are numerous concertina players 
active in Australia today, most attached to one or 
another of several music and dance clubs (see 
Resources, below), and by now nearly all are of 
the "revival" generation or later. Some of these 
include Dave de Hugard, Peter Ellis, Rob Willis, 
Gary Lovejoy, Richard Evans, Stuart Leslie, 
Chris Sullivan, Malcolm Clapp, Mike Martin, 
David Johnson, Sue McMahon, Bob Bolton, John 
Harpley, Patrick Walsh, Fred Pribac, Stuart 
Graham, Patrick Walsh, John Dunn, Scott 
Fineran, Steve Mills, Jim Dangerfield, Dot 
Dawson, Chris Ghent, and Warren Fahey, among 
others.'^" With an extensive collection of 

Copyrighled material 

The Concertina in Australia 

recordings and transcriptions of early players, a 
vibrant folk music environment, several builders 
and repairers (see below), and plenty of 
opportunities for one to play for the traditional 

dances that are the natural element of the 
concertina in Australia (as elsewhere), concertina 
playing in this country seems reasonably healthy 
and has a bright future. 

Figure 42. The Em Potter Old Time Dance Band, led by Ern Potter on Anglo concertina, was a staple of 
the western districts of Victoria in the late 1940s to about 1970. With thanks to Peter Ellis. 


Australian music and dance societies and 

The following societies are good sources for 
information on Australian bush music and dance: 

Australian Folklore Unit, Warren Fahey. 

Bush Dance and Music Club, Bendigo,Victoria. 
http://www.bushdance @ 

Bush Traditions, Canberra, ACT. http://www. 

The Bush Music Club, Sydney. Australia's oldest 
bush music club, 

Wongawilli Colonial Dance Club, Illawarra 
region, south coastal New South Wales. 


The National Library of Australia, Canberra. 
Field recordings of Susan CoUey, Jim Harrison, 
Fred Holland, Dooley Chapman, Charlie Ordish 
and others are available for onsite listening or for 
purchase. The Library also houses John 
Meredith's collecting materials and a number of 
photographs of early twentieth-century 
concertina players, 

Your Good Self. Dooley Chapman (CD). Chris 
Sullivan's Australian Folk Masters CS-AFM 001, 
2005. This is the best single recording of early 


The Anglo-German Concertina 

Australian concertina music, and it is widely 
available at online record stores. 

Peter ElHs of Bendigo, Victoria is planning to 
issue a CD made from field recordings of various 
of the old Australian players. The title of the CD 
will be Music Makes Me Smile, notionally to be 
issued by the Nariel Creek Festival Committee in 

Information and tutors 

Australian Folklore Unit, Warren Fahey: 
Information on concertina history in Australia, 
including the concertina builder John Stanley. 

Playing Anglo Concertina in a Bush Music Style: 
An online tutor with a very useful group of tunes, 
with instructions on fingering and style. 
Compiled by David Johnson at Bush Traditions, 
Builders and repairers 

Malcolm Clapp: Repairs and sells concertinas. 6 
Melissa Place, Woolgoolga, New South Wales 
2456 Australia. 

Richard Evans: Builds Anglo concertinas; his 
model is called the Kookaburra. Also repairs all 

types of concertinas and plays the Maccann duet. 
He was the editor of the former Concertina 
Magazine of the 1980s. Lot 5, Sandham Road, 
Bell, NSW, AustraUa. 

Chris Ghent: Builds Anglo concertinas for Irish 
style playing, in Sydney. 

Ian Simpson: Builds concertinas. Upper Nariel 
via Cudgewa, Victoria 3705. 


Warren Fahey, personal communication to the 
author, 2009. Fahey interviewed Joe Watson, a retired 
magic-lantern showman, in 1973. Watson recalled 
working with blind Anglo player Paddy Doolin for 
these shows; this ditty is from Doolin's singing, as 
recalled by Watson. 

^ Much of this general review of Australia's history 
was compiled from material on Australia at 

^ "Historical Population Statistics," Australian Bureau 

of Statistics, (2008), 
' Ibid. 

"The Island Continent," Australian Government 
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, (2009), 
^ Advertisement for Mr. Worley, The Courier, 
(Hobart, Tasmania), Feb, 5, 1851, p. 1. 
^ T.B. Humphrey. Sydney Gazette and New South 
Wales Advertiser, Decemhei 10, 1833. 
^ On sale at the Stores of Mr. C. F. Clarkson, (Perth), 
The Perth Gazette and Western Australian Journal, 
August 27, 1842, p. 1. 

^ Queen's Theatre, the 1852 opening of which was 
recounted in Frank Leslie 's Illustrated Newspaper, 
(New York), Sept. 12, 1885, p. 59, col. A. 

"The Truck System," The South Australian 
Advertiser, (Adelaide), December 9, 1859, p. 3. 
" Advertisement, The Argus, Melbourne, Vic, July 
27, 1867, p. 1. 

Shipping, The Brisbane Courier, October 23, 1875. 

Shipping. The Brisbane Courier, September 19, 

Commercial Intelligence, The Argus, (Melbourne, 
Vic), September 2, 1881. 

Advertisement for Izatt and Son, The Brisbane 
Courier, June 26, 1895, p. 8. 

"The Sydney Exhibition," The Argus, (Melbourne, 
Vic), May 2, 1877. 

"Metropolitan Rifle Volunteers," The Western 
Australian Times, (Perth), November 12, 1878, p. 2. 

Fires, The Argus, (Melbourne, Vic), December 31, 

The discussion that follows was paraphrased from 
an anonymous article entitled "John Stanley- 
Concertina Doctor," in Concertina Magazine, Winter 
(1982): pp. 2-3. 

^° Richard Evans, ed., "Clem O'Neal, Anglo Player," 
Concertina Magazine, Winter (1982): pp. 7-10. 


Copy rig hied material 

The Concertina in Australia 

Richard Evans, ed., "Clem O'Neal, Anglo Player," 
pp. 7-10. 

Richard Evans, ed., "Clem O'Neal, Anglo Player," 
pp. 7-10. 

Isaac F. Morrison, The War after the War (London 
and New York: John Lane, 1917), pp. 259-261. 
^ W. Osborne Lilley, Bound for Australia on Board 
the Orient (London; Andrew Crombie, 1885), p. 5. 

Mrs. Dominic Daly, 1887, Digging, Squatting, and 
Pioneering Life in the Northern Territory of South 
Australia: London, Samson Low, Marston, Searle and 
Rivington, pp. 52-53. 

^ "Shepherd's Camp Band," The Brisbane Courier, 
May 24, 1879, p. 4. 

"From the Balonne to the Sullee in Search of 
Droving," The Brisbane Courier, March 23, 1881, p. 

"Picturesque Victoria, Croajingolong," The Argus, 
(Melbourne, Vic), April 24, 1886. 

Nehemiah Bardey, Opals and agates: or, Scenes 
under the Southern Cross and the Magelhans: being 
memories of fifty years of Australia and Polynesia 
(Melbourne, Sydney and London: Gordon and Gotch, 
1892), p. 187. 

^ "A Three Days' Ride Around Dalby," TheMoreton 
Bay Courier, (Tuesday), December 1 1, 1860, p. 4. 

"A Visit to Norfolk Island, in J. Erskine Clarke, 
ed.," Parish Magazine, W. Wells Gardner, London, 
1870, p. 15. 

"Newcastle," The Western Australian Times, 
(Perth), September 10, 1875. 

The Brisbane Courier, Queensland, March 4, 1884, 
p. 4. 

^ Dooley Chapman, Your Good Self, CD, Chris 
Sullivan's Australian Folk Masters, CS-AFM-001, 


Rosamond and Florence Hill, What We Saw in 
Australia (London: Macmillan,1875), p. 229. 
^ Ada Cambridge, Thirty Years in Australia (London: 
Methuen, 1903), p. 149. 

Thomas Heney, "The Heart of Australia," The 
Centennial Magazine, an Australian Monthly , Sydney, 
(1889), n, p. 788. 

"Yam Creek," Northern Territory Times and 
Gazette, October 19, 1878, p. 2. 

Dooley Chapman, Your Good Self CD, (2005). 

Peter Ellis, "History of Old Time Dancing and 
Music," Bush Dance and Music Club of Bendigo Inc., 
2008, http:// . 

"District News, Miller's Forest," The Maitland 

Mercury & Hunter River General Advertiser, (New 
South Wales), January 29, 1881, p. 6. 

Stroud, The Maitland Mercury & Hunter River 
General Advertiser, November 20, 1880, p. 7. 

Banana, The Brisbane Courier, April 21, 1877, p. 6. 

'The Australian Autumn," The Argus, (Melbourne 
Vic), March 30 1889, p. 13. 

Henry Lawson, Children of the Bush (Sydney: 
Angus and Robertson Ltd., 1907), p. 145. 



Ibid., p. 145. 

C. H. S. Matthews, A Parson in the Australian Bush 
(London: Edwin Arnold, 1908), pp. 1 13-114. 
''^ Walter Kilroy Harris, Outback in Australia, or 
Three Australian Overlanders (Garden City Press 
Ltd., Letchworth, 1913). 

"Back to Casdemaine," The Argus, (Melbourne, 
Vic), October 7, 1922, p. 30. 
^° "Guid Scotch Night," The Canberra Times, 
December 9, 1926, p. 30. 

Chris Sullivan, liner notes to Your Good Self. CD, 
Chris Sullivan's AustraUan Folk Masters, CS-AFM- 
001, 2005. 


Peter Ellis, 1998, Interview with Neville Simpson 
and Sid Simpson, in Peter Ellis and Harry Gardner, 
Music Makes Me Smile, A Tribute to Con Klippel and 
the Music of the Nariel Valley, Victoria: Carrawobbity 
Press, Wongawilli Colonial Dance Club, Inc., Albion 
Park NSW, p. 35-36. 

See Peter Ellis, Interview with Neville and Sid 
Simpson, 1998. 

John Meredith and Hugh Anderson, Folk Songs of 
Australia, and the Men and Women Who Sang Them 
(Sydney: Halstead Press, 1967). 

See notes on the history of "Mining in Australia" at 

^ Queen's Theatre, the 1852 opening of which was 
recounted in Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, 
New York, Sept. 12, 1885, p. 59, col. A. 

"Revision of the Tariff," The Argus, (Melbourne, 
Vic), January 27, 1865. 

"Gympie Creek Gold-field. " The Brisbane Courier, 
December 14, 1867, p. 7. 

Charles H. Allen, A Visit to Queensland and Her 
Goldfields (London: Chapman and Hall), p. 130. 
®* 'The Embryo City," The Argus, (Melbourne, Vic), 
December 22, 1877. 

J. B. Austin, The Mines of South Australia (London: 
Longman & Co., 1863), p. 68. 

Intercolonial News: Grey River Argus, Jime 24 
1871, p. 2. 


Copy rig hied material 

The Anglo-German Concertina 

Peter Ellis, as quoted by Jody Kruskal, at 

^ Peter Ellis, personal communication to the author, 

The Courier, (Brisbane), November 15, 1862, p. 4. 
^ "Peak Downs, " The Brisbane Courier, March 8, 
1871, p. 3. 

"A Raid on a Miner's Camp," Evening Post, 
(Wellington New Zealand), June 22, 1895, p. 1. 

Peter Ellis, personal communication to the author, 
2009. Peter Ellis's interview of Harry McQueen is 
housed in the collections of the National Library of 

^'^ All the explanatory material accompanying the 
period references in this section on bushrangers is 
paraphrased from several excellent articles on this 
subject in Wikipedia. 

™ The Courier, (Brisbane), April 18 1862, p. 3. 

George Boxall, The Story of the Australian Bush- 
rangers (G. Robertson & Co., Proprietary, Ltd., 1902), 
p. 223-224. 
''^ Ibid., p. 264. 

"The Bushrangers," The Argus, (Melbourne), 
December 14 1878, p. 8. 

Ibid., p. 8. 

^"^ "The Kelly Gang," Marlborough Express (New 
Zealand), July 21, 1880, p. 2. 

Year Book Australia, 2002: Australian Bureau of 
Statistics, 2002. 

" Fred T. Whitington, ed., Augustus Short, First 
Bishop of Adelaide (Adelaide: E.S. Wigg & Son, 
1887), p. 108. 

''^ Rosamond Davenport Hill and Florence Davenport 
Hill, What we saw in Australia (London: 
Macmillan,1875), p. 181. 

™ "The Colonial and Indian Exhibition," The Argus, 

(Melbourne), April 28, 1886, p. 7. 

^ Rev. Arthur T. Pierson, ed.. The Missionary Review 

of the World, (London, 1902), XV, p. 498. 

^' Margaret Somerville and Marie Dundas, The sun 

dancin ': People and Place in Coonabarabran 

(Aboriginal Studies Press, 1994), pp. 98-100. 

P. B. Prior, "Aboriginals as Musicians" The British 
Musician and Musical News, (London), October 1938, 
p. 218-219. 

Litton Forbes, Two Years in Fiji (London: 
Longman, Greens, and Co., 1875), p. 235. 

Ibid., p. 257. 

Philip H. Gibbs, Australasia: The Britains of the 
South (London and Melbourne: Cassel and Co., 

Ltd.,1903) , pp. 94-95. Also see "South Sea Islander" 

in Wikipedia. 


Ibid., p. 96. 

^ "In the Coast District, The Bingera Plantation." The 
Brisbane Courier, June 7, 1886, p. 3. 

"In the Coast District, The Bingera Plantation,"r/?e 
Brisbane Courier, June 7, 1886, p. 3. 

"Concert," The Courier, (Hobart, Tasmania), April 
8, 1853, p. 2. 

Amusements,r/7ey4rgw5, (Melbourne), April 18, 
1853, p. 3. 

^' "Strathalbyn,", The South Australian Advertiser, 
(Adelaide), July 5 1861, p. 2. 

"Telegraphic," The Brisbane Courier, June 28, 
1870, p. 2. 

James Stephenson, Seven Years in the Australian 

Bush (Liverpool; Wm. Potter, Printer, 1880) , p. 90. 
Notes, The Argus, Melbourne, October 18, 1884, p. 


Peter Ellis, 2009, personal communication to the 

Modern day concertinist Dave De Hugard dissected 
the seemingly complex origins of Chapman's "Old 
Dan Tucker" in Speewah magazine. Preservation of 
Australia's Heritage Society, Jamison ACT, April 
1999, pp. 9-15. 

Percy J. Gresser, 1965, The Songs They Sang - and - 
the Dance Tunes They Played: Copies of Gresser's 
extensive manuscript and list of songs recorded from 
Mrs. Colley were sent to the archives of the Bush 
Music Club of Sydney, as well as to the Wild Colonial 
Days Society of New South Wales. I am grateful to 
Bob Bolton for a copy of this work. 

"Grand Fete at Boa Vista," Hobart Town Mercury, 
July 10 1857, p. 2. 

Notes, The Argus, (Melbourne), August 27, 1872, p. 


Notes, The Brisbane Courier, November 19, 1881, 
p. 5. 

"Mrs. Westwood's Concert," The West Australian, 
(Perth), November 13, 1886, p. 5. 

"Mr. Houdin's Entertainment," The Courier, 
(Brisbane), May 31, 1862, p. 2. 
103 "ji^ggfj-g Royal," The Brisbane Courier, June 7, 
1897, p. 6. 

'"^Entertainments: The West Australian, (Perth), 
December 14, 1899, p. 8. 

"Majestic Theatre," The Advertiser, Adelaide, 
January 11, 1919, p. 8. 

Daily Southern Cross, (New Zealand), August 3, 
1870, p. 3. 


Copy rig hied material 

The Concertina in Australia 

"An Evening with Terpsichore," The Argus, 
(Melbourne), July 14, 1877, p. 9. 


This excerpt, originally from the Sydney Bulletin, 
is taken from James Murray, 1973, Larrikins— 19™ 
Century Outrage: Lansdowne Press Ltd, Melbourne, 
pp. 36-40. 

"^^ "City Life in Australia," Otago Witness, (New 
Zealand), March 5, 1891, p. 28. 
"° "Constable Casey, M.C.," Observer, (Auckland 
NZ), January 27, 1900, p. 23. 

"Woogaroo Lunatic Asylum," The Brisbane 
Courier, October 25, 1869. p. 3. 

Notes, The Argus, (Melbourne), March 23, 1869, p. 


Adelaide: The Brisbane Courier, March 12, 1870, 
p. 8. 

Blind "Concertinists": The Argus, (Melbourne), 
January 27, 1877, p. 5. 

Married at 15.' The Advertiser, Adelaide, April 11, 
1912, p. 14. 

"Annoyances at Petrie Terrace," The Brisbane 

Courier, March 31, 1870, p. 2. 

Notes, The West Australian, (Perth), March 9, 
1883, p. 3. 

Mumford v. Heywood, The Australian Law Times, 
1908, XXIX, p. 247. 

Notes, The Courier, (Brisbane), January 24, 1863, 
p. 3. 

Perth Police Court: The West Australian, (Perth), 
February 7, 1890, p. 4. 

'21 Visit to the Customs House," The Brisbane 
Courier, February 28, 1890, p. 7. 

"Serious Affray at Sandridge," The Argus, 
(Melbourne), October 23, 1878, p. 7. 

"Nearly a Riot," The Advertiser, (Adelaide), May 
10, 1910, p. 8. Also see "Disgraceful Scene," Evening 
Post, (WeUington New Zealand), May 10, 1910. 
'^"^ The first Australian office was in Adelaide, 

'^^ Harold Finch-Hatton, Advance Australia! (London: 
W.H. Allen & Co., 1885), pp. 318-319. 
"Salvation Army," The Brisbane Courier, 

December 6, 1883, p. 3. 

"Maryborough," The Brisbane Courier, December 
24, 1885, p. 3. 

Notes, Brisbane Courier, July 3, 1882, p. 2. 
Notes, The Brisbane Courier, December 29, 1885. 



'General Booth," The Brisbane Courier, 
November 5, 1895, p. 6. 

"General Booth," The Advertiser, (Adelaide), June 
19, 1905, p. 6. 

"Salvation Army Motor Ambulance Fund," The 
Advertiser, Adelaide, October 7, 1915, p. 11. 

"H.M.S.S. Galatea," The Argus, (Melbourne), 
December 27, 1867, p. 5. 

"The River," The Argus, (Melbourne), January 3, 
1870, p. 12. 

135 "Yam Creek," Northern Territory Times and 
Gazette, (Darwin), January 16, 1874. p. 4. 
'''^ "Geraldton," The Western Australian Times, 
(Perth), January 12, 1875, p. 5. 

"Boulia," The Brisbane Courier, February 18, 
1882, p. 6. 

"Christmas Eve in Brisbane," The Brisbane 
Courier, December 26, 1892, p. 5. 
'^^ "Mr. T.C. Christmas," The Brisbane Courier, 
December 21, 1895. 

"Pretty Pialba," The Brisbane Courier, December 
30, 1896, p. 5.. 

E.C. Buley, Austrahan Life in Town and Country 
(London: George Newnes, Ltd., 1905), p. 37. 
'"^ "From Beenleigh to the Bay," The Brisbane 
Courier, December 14, 1876, p. 3. 
^'^^ A Correspondent, The Brisbane Courier, March 3, 
1884, p. 5. 

•'•4 "Workmen's Excursion at Freemantle," The 
Western Australian, (Perth), January 28, 1889, p. 3. 

"The Firemen's Trip to Melbourne," The Brisbane 
Courier, March 8, 1887, p. 6. 

i"*^ "Vintage Picnic at Happy Valley," The Advertiser, 

(Adelaide), April 14, 1902, p. 7. 

"The Camp at Sunbury," The Argus, (Melbourne), 
April 2, 1877, p. 7. 

'"^ "The Suakin Campaign," The Argus, (Melbourne), 
April 23, 1885, p. 6. 

149 "-pjjg Encampment," The Brisbane Courier, April 
23, 1886, p. 5. 

150 "-pjjg Lytton Encampment," The Brisbane Courier, 
April 16, 1889, p. 5. 

"With the Red Cross," The Advertiser, Adelaide, 
March 4, 1902, p. 7. 

"Men for the Army," The Argus, (Melbourne), July 
13, 1915, p. 7. 

'^^ "Posting the Election Results," The Advertiser, 
(Adelaide), March 29, 1915, p. 12. 

Walter Kilroy Harris, Outhack in Australia, or 
Three Australian Overlanders (Letchworth: Garden 
City Press Ltd., 1913). See discussion in section on 
Rural Social Dances. 


Copy rig hied material 

The Anglo-German Concertina 


Wireless Programmes, The Argus, (Melbourne), 
March 1, 1930, p. 20. 

'^^ Wireless Programmes, The Argus, (Melbourne), 
March 6, 1930, p. 17. 

'■""^ "Folk-Dancing for Play Centre," The Canberra 
Times, November 26, 1948, p. 3. 

An excellent treatment of this is to be found in 
Graeme Smith, Singing Australian: A History of Folk 
and Country Music: Pluto Press, 2004, pp. 5-10. 
Graeme Smith, Singing Australian, 2004, p. xi. 
John Meredith, Roger Covell, and Patricia Brown, 
Folk Songs of Australia, and the Men and Women 
Who Sang Them, Volume 2 (Kensington: New South 
Wales University Press, 1987), p. X. 

Peter Ellis, personal communication to the author, 

'^^ Graeme Smith, Singing Australian, (2004), p. 45. 

John Meredith and Hugh Anderson, Folk Songs of 
Australia, and the Men and Women Who Sang Them 
(Sydney: Halstead Press, 1967), p. 8. 

See Peter Ellis and Harry Gardner, Music Makes 
Me Smile: A Tribute to Con Klippel and the Music of 
the Nariel Valley (Victoria: Carrawobbity Press, 

John Meredith, Folk Songs of Australia, (1967), pp. 
227-232. Also Bruce Kurtz, 1985, Fred Holland, 
Concertina Player from the Past: Concertina 
Magazine, No. 11. pp. 7-9. 
'^'^ Ibid., pp. 235-238. 

John Meredith, Folk Songs of Australia, Volume 2, 
(1987), pp. 40-41. 



Ibid., pp. 51-52. 
Ibid., pp. 215-218. 
Ibid., pp. 219-235. 

Percy J. Gresser, 1 965, The Songs They Sang - and 
- the Dance Tunes They Played'. Copies of Gresser's 
extensive manuscript and songs recorded from Mrs. 
Colley were sent to the archives of the Bush Music 
Club of Sydney, as well as to the Wild Colonial Days 
Society of New South Wales. I am gratefiil to Bob 
Bolton for a copy of this work. 

"Clem O'Neal, Anglo Player," Richard Evans, ed.. 
Concertina Magazine, Winter 1982, pp. 7-10. 

Dooley Chapman, Yojir Good Self, CD, Chris 
Sullivan's Australian Folk Masters, CS-AFM-001, 
2005, Also see Chris Sullivan, 1983, Albert "Dooley" 
Chapman, Australian Concertina Player: Concertina 
Magazine, Number 3, pp. 7-11. 

Warren Fahey, personal communication to the 
author, 2009. 

Peter Ellis and Harry Gardner, Music Makes Me 
Smile, (1998), p. 10-16. 

'^^ Peter Ellis and Harry Gardner, Music Makes Me 
Smile, (1998), p. 12. The biographical sketch of 
Harrison is drawn completely from this source, pp. 28- 


Ray Simpson, in a personal note to Peter Ellis, 


Peter Ellis and Harry Gardner, p. i; 

Peter Ellis, personal communication to the author, 

David Johnson, Playing the Anglo Concertina in 
the Bush Style, (2009), 


Dooley Chapman, Your Good Self CD, (2005). 


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Chapter 8. The Concertina in New Zealand 

The swell dances in the woolshed (ah) I think we 'd best forget, 
When the ringer called the figures for the lancers and the set, 
And we sat around on wool bales, or just squatted on the floor, 
While some shearer sang a ballad fi'om the golden days of yore, 
And we all joined in the chorus, just to give the bloke a hand. 
While the cook's mate led the music with his concertina band, 
The girlfriends took round the supper and the boss he gave a pound, 
As the rouseys in their shirt sleeves passed the pannikins around. 

— George Meek, Station Days in Maoriland, 1952^ 

Introduction and Background 

German and Anglo-German concertinas 
were played in English-speaking countries 
around the world in the late nineteenth century, 
and in each place they were absorbed into 
distinctly local patterns of music and dance. 
London's urban environments harbored 
thousands of street musicians and beggars, and 
England's tradition-rich countryside inspired 
Anglo-German and German concertina players to 
perform for morris dance and mumming. wSince 
New Zealand's largest single group of 
nineteenth-century immigrants were from Great 
Britain, one might expect to find a roughly 
similar mix of social entertainments and 
amusements among these colonists. However, no 
large cities existed then in New Zealand, hence 
no significant numbers of urban street musicians. 
Its rural settlements were newly carved out of the 
wilderness, in contrast to the ancient villages of 
England (Figure 1). Age-old traditional customs 
specific to those individual EngUsh villages Uke 
morris dancing did not transport well, because 
immigrants in New Zealand — Uke immigrants 
everjwhere — ^typically had difficulty finding 
others in their adopted home from their original 
villages. However, people in these small and 
remote farming, sheep-raising, and mining 
outposts had an insatiable appetite for social 
contact, which typically took the form of social 
dances held in school halls, wool sheds, bams, 
and the Uke. The concertina was one of the chief 

instruments used to provide music for these 
social dances, which, judging by written accounts 
from this period, were extraordinarily common in 
New Zealand at the same time that they were 
popular in Australia, South Africa, and Ireland. 
In addition, many native Maori people 
enthusiastically embraced both European dancing 
and the concertina — the concertina was so 
popular with them that it was once called the 
"Maori piano." In this section we will review 
some of the many descriptions of social dances 
and other activities of early New Zealand 
concertina players which were left behind in 
books, newspaper articles, and other journals. 

A brief review of New Zealand's unique 
historical and cultural setting may be useful. New 
Zealand (Figure 2) was populated by Maoris, a 
branch of the Polynesian people, at the time of its 
European discovery by Captain Cook in 1769. 
Early European settlers were mostly traders and 
missionaries, but immigration expanded rapidly 
after the British government claimed sovereignty 
in 1840 with the Treaty of Waitangi, in which 
rights were guaranteed to the native Maori. New 
Zealand became a Crown Colony the following 
year. Both settlers and Ihe Crown began to 
purchase large tracts of Maori land, and Maori 
dissatisfaction with their overall treatment in 
these affairs (as well as the extent of 
immigration) resulted in the New Zealand land 
wars of 1845-1872. The majority of these battles 
were fought on North Island, where most Maori 
Uved. Disputes over land and past agreements 


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The Anglo-German Concertina 

Figure 1. A New Zealand settler's home. 
From Frank Parsons and Charles Taylor, 
1904, The Story of New Zealand. 


New Plymouth 






r- Napier 





Palmerston North 




^ Invercargi 
Stewart Tsland/Ftakiura 

Figure 2. Index map of New 
Zealand, with thanks to 


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The Concertina in New Zealand 

have continued in the courts to the present day. 

Initial immigration was primarily from 
England, Scotland, and Wales, with lesser 
numbers from Ireland and continental Europe. By 
1859 the number of European settlers exceeded 
that of Maori, who at that time numbered about 
sixty thousand. The population did not reach one 
milHon until 1911, after the concertina had 
receded in popularity. During the Anglo's heyday 
this was a nation of few cities and many small, 
often remote settlements. 

In 1861, gold was discovered in the Otago 
province of South Island, and the ensuing gold 
rush lasted the rest of the decade. Prospectors 
arrived from gold fields in Australia and the 
United States, and New Zealand's population 
grew exponentially. Dunedin became the richest 
city in the colony, and South Island became the 
more populous of the two islands — a situation 
that was reversed in the twentieth century. 

Other than mining, the economy was based 
on the wool generated from sheep stations, until 
the development of refrigerated shipping in the 
1880s, which made possible a sizeable trade of 
frozen meat and dairy products to Britain. 

The various groups who participated in New 
Zealand's formation — ^Maori, immigrants, 
soldiers, sailors, graziers (ranchers), miners and 
townsfolk — all had people who played the 
German and Anglo-German concertina. The late 
nineteenth century, during which New Zealand 
rapidly developed as a colony, was also the 
period of the concertina's greatest popularity, and 
documented "sightings" of the concertina 
underscore the social happenings of nearly aU 
people in colonial New Zealand. 

Arrival of the concertina 

Free-reed instruments, probably including 

one of Cyrus Demian's early accordions, arrived 
in New Zealand at least by 1839, as evidenced by 
this encounter between native New Zealanders 
and Edward Wakefield, an English colonist. 
Wakefield described the experience in his journal 
entry of September 24: 

One [native ] named Te Kaeaea diverted us much 
by . . . bringing a long pointed wooden spear 
within inches of our bodies; then retreating with 
a roar of laughter every time he saw us shrink 
from the thrust. . . . I repaid him his surprise the 
first day that he came on board [ship]. I had got 
an accordion under a large cloak, and kept time 
to its notes with my mouth, so as to deceive him 
and twenty other natives into the idea that I was 
uttering the various sounds. They showed a 
profound respect for my oratorical talents, until I 
let them find out the trick, a day or two 
afterward. The accordion in question was called 
my mouth for a long time afterwards. ^ 

Richard Copping, a whaler, visited the 
Maori community at Waitangi in 1843, near 
present-day Auckland and the site of the British- 
Maori Treaty of Waitangi three years 
earUer. Anticipating good trading there, he was 
disappointed to find that a barque, the Cuba, had 
recently arrived from London and beat him to the 

The barque had brought everything that was 
likely to take the natives eye; guns of all 
descriptions, from the old brown Bess to the 
fanciful double-barrels, pistols of all kinds, 
accordions, flutinas, Jew 's harps, violins . . . 
clothes, rum, brandy, wine . . . It was ludicrous in 
the extreme to see the Maoris dressed in all kinds 
of style [like] Beau Brummel . . . with the Maoris 
sitting smoking all kinds of fancy pipe and 
playing all kinds of instruments. ^ 

It is not possible to tell from Copping' s 
description whether Uhhg's German concertina 
was among those free-reed musical instruments 
sold by the Cuba; Uhlig called his instrument an 
accordion throughout the 1840s, although 


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The Anglo-German Concertina 

English merchants began to market them as the 
"German concertina" by 1846 (see Chapter 1). 
The earliest known documented use of the term 
"German concertina" in New Zealand is in an 
1854 advertisement for imported musical 
instruments, shown in Figure 3. It makes no 
special remark about the introduction of the 
instruments, as it might if they were a brand new 
item, and hence it is very likely that they had 
already been imported for some time (they had 
arrived in neighboring Australia at least by 1852, 
as discussed in the previous chapter). The 
advertised price of twenty-four shillings is 
slightly higher than for those sold in London at 
that time. 

CONCERTINAS, at twenty. four shil- 
lings and upwards ^ 
Acoordeons, German, from five shilHngs I 
Flatinas, French, various pricey, areraging fifty 

Flutes and Octaves, from one shilling eacli. 

W. M. Stanton, 

Trafalgar street. 
Also, for sale, a good class Cornopeon, for foar| 

A good Yiolin, for thirty shillings 
A second-hand Pianoforte, in good tune and | 

Musical Preceptors and Catechisms. 
Newest Music from Sydney publishers. Yiolin 
strings. Davison's Popular Instructor for the 
Concertina, whereby " any person unacquainted 
with music may learn the exercises, melodies, &c., 
on this beautifally perfect and effective instru 
ment, in a few hours." 

Figure 3. Early advertisement for German concertinas and 
accordions, from tiie Nelson Examiner and New Zealand 
Chronicle, April 1, 1854. 

English-system concertinas were imported 
as early as were the German ones (and perhaps 
even earlier), and an advertisement from 1856 
(Figure 4) takes care to note that the English 
concertina for sale was "double-action," 
distinguishing it from its inexpensive German 
cousin. By 1863, the town of Auckland on the 
North Island was able to provide instruction, 
tuning, and perhaps even building of concertinas 
(Figure 5). As in Ireland at this time, offering 
instruments as raffle prizes was one marketing 
ploy which was effective with a cash-strapped, 

sortmcnt of FANCY GOODS, consisting t 
Toys, Dolls, Books, Woi'kboxes, TabJea, Elegant Pa 
pcterics, Jewellery, &c., . ' 

At W. M. S^d'TON'S, 
Corner of Trafalgar jftul Hardy-streets. 

Chrisfraas Fruits, Sii^crior Teas, Frcsh-roast& 
Coffee, Chocolatos wfAVocoa, Sauces, GiU, Picklei 
Preserved 3Ieats, &c. V inp"), Spirits, Ale and Portei 

01^ SALE, a Cottngc and a Cabinet Pianoforte, a' 
English Concertina (double-action), and a splendit 
Guitar. New Slusio, &c. 

Figure 4. Advertisement for English concertina, from the 
Nelson Examiner and New Zealand Chronicle, December 
13, 1856. The descriptor "double-action" was added to 
distinguish the English concertina from lower quality 
German concertinas. 

CT. COSTELLI, Teacher of the Violin, Flutina, 
I or Accordion, and Concertiua ; also of Modern 
Dancing, in all its brauches— on moderate term*. 

Orders left at Mr. Vai-ty's, Mr, Wayte's, or at 
Mrs. Grant's, Hohsou-str«et, opposite the Governor 
Browne Hotel, will be punctually attended to. 

Music for jSveoiog and Qnadrjlle Parties, Pic- 
nics, kc. 


SLEATH(Litc Band Mastci Covontij), TUNERJ 
li I AKE if of H A RMONI U U, CO N CE PcTIN A, 
&c, Pinuofoite? unil eveiy descujitian of Bi.assi 
String, aud JVJihfcary Instiuiueiita timed and [;oi fuctudJ 

Figure 5. Upper: Advertisement for concertina 
instruction, Auckland's Z)a;7v5o!(//je;-w Cross, August 
13,1 863. Lower: Advertisement for concertina tuning 
and building, same newspaper, June 13, 1863. The 
proprietor was an English immigrant from Coventry. 

working-class population. A raffle in Wellington 
in 1872 offered both a "First-class English 
concertina" with a value of six guineas and a 
"German concertina, new patent" valued at three 
guineas.'* That high a price as well as the "patent" 
indicated that that instrument was probably an 
Anglo-German instrument; German concertinas 
were generally not patented, and commanded 
much smaller prices. An advertisement for a 
raffle in 1874 listed two clearly German 
concertinas, a "Celestial concertina" (tremolo- 
tuned, double-reeded) valued at one pound and 


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The Concertina in New Zealand 

fifteen shillings and an "Organ concertina" 
(double-reeded, octave-tuned) for one pound;^ 
these double-reeded German concertinas were at 
the higher-quality end of the range for German 
instruments. There is little doubt that Anglo- 
German instruments of the highest quality were 
also reaching New Zealand. The following 
account from Otago province in 1882 describes 
the presentation of a very generous gift for a 
lifetime of community service: 

After the distribution of the (Christmas) gifts a 
very pleasing little ceremony took place — viz., the 
presentation by Mr. Humphries of a very 
handsome German concertina, which cost £6 
6s — the best, I am told, that could be got — to Mr. 
William Watson, of Cottesbrook Station, bearing 
the following inscriptions on a silver 
plate: "Presented to W. Watson, Christmas, 1881, 
as a mark of esteem, from his many friends. 

That instrument was perhaps a Jeffries 
Anglo -German concertina, which was the best 
available at that time. One hundred and thirty of 
Watson's friends had contributed to the shilling 
distribution Ust, which speaks volumes not only 
of the "estimation in which he was justly held by 
his numerous friends and acquaintances on the 
Plain," but also of the high degree of esteem 
accorded the Anglo-German concertina in rural 
New Zealand. Watson, who worked as a bullock 
driver, evidently put the instrument to immediate 
good use. A concert and dance was held at the 
schoolhouse at nearby Strath-Tieri on June 2nd 
of the following year, where "dancing was kept 
up with great spirit till about 6:30 a.m., to the 
soul-stirring music of Messrs Robinson, Watson, 
and Webb, on the violin, concertina, and piccolo, 
and was of a high order, and not easily beaten in 
country districts."^ 

The concertina in New Zealand Life 

Concerts and minstrels 

The English concertina was most often used 
by members of the upper orders of society, as in 
this fund-raiser for a concert hall in the mining 
town of Dunedin, Otago in 1870: 

The second of a series of entertainments, under 
the auspices of the North Dunedin Mutual 
Improvement Association, took place on Friday 
evening. Mr. Thomas Birch, President of the 
Association, occupied the chair, and there was a 
very good attendance. In his opening remarks, 
the Chairman stated that the sum derived from 
the last entertainment, after paying all expenses, 
amounted to £15 10s. He also mentioned that it 
would require about £70 to put the shed into a 
proper condition, and hoped that the Committee 
would be successful in getting it done, as a hall 
with better acoustic qualities was very much 
wanted at the north end of the city. The 
programme, which was an interesting and 
amusing one, was well carried out, as the 
frequent applause of the audience fidly testified. . 
. . The instrumental music was . . . highly 
appreciated, the Scotch airs on the English 
concertina in particular being beautifully 
rendered. A very pleasant evening was 
terminated by the whole company singing the 
National Anthem Previous to the assemblage 
separating, the Chairman announced that the 
next entertainment would take place on Friday, 
the 1 0th June. * 

An account from a similarly high-minded 
gathering of 1871, also in Dunedin, underscores 
the English concertina's socially acceptable 

South Dunedin School. 

Another enjoyable entertainment by the senior 
pupils of the South Dunedin School, assisted by 
several lady and gentleman amateurs, was given 
in the School-room on the 24th ult. The chair was 
taken by His Worship the Mayor, who, in a few 
introductory remarks, explained the object for 


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The Anglo-German Concertina 

which the readings, &c, were given, namely, the 
establishment of a fund for prizes to be annually 
awarded to the pupils. This fund, he was glad to 
say, met with, and deserved, every 
encouragement from the citizens. The first part of 
the programme contained a pianoforte solo by 
Mr. A. J. Towsey, which it is needless to say was 
executed with that gentleman 's well known 
ability. A scene from Pickwick follow ed, in which 
eight of the pupils took part, and great 
amusement was caused by the style in which the 
boys rendered their parts, the representative of 
the redoubtable Sam Weller, having of course, 
the lion 's share of the fun. . . . Mr. Cavalier gave 
a solo on the English concertina ; and Mr. J. 
Ross delivered a recitation from one ofElihu 
Burritt 's works, descriptive of a scene at the 
great Natural Bridge in Virginia. ^ 

Meanwhile, the German and Anglo-German 
concertinas quickly found their usual places in 
working-class and middle-class haunts, as might 
be inferred from this bit of doggerel from a tiny 
North Island settlement in 1882: 

O, twang the concertina 

And the sounding kettle-drum. 

Pour out the big long-sleevers 
And the soul-inspiring rum. 
Serve out the doughy damper 
And the sav'ry mutton grill. 
For Joe, the maiden-charmer, 
Has returned to Helensville.'° 

Or from this story of Boxing Day in the 
mining hamlet of Barry town on the South 
Island's west coast, in 1882 (Figure 6): 

The old year was played out, and the new year in 
by the splendid Barrytown band, the instruments 
used consisting of about half a dozen kerosene 
tins, one tin whistle, a pair of old bones, and a 
concertina, the whole being under the leadership 
of a somewhat tall, lean, and hungry looking 
bandmaster, who wore a nondescript hat of local 
manufacture, round the middle of which a green 
band was conspicuously displayed. So exquisite 
was the music that it drove the whole of the cats, 
the number of which in Barrytown is legion, into 


the bush, with the exception of one black Tom, 
who was too good a warnor to be easily 

Figure 6. An impromptu "tin-kettling" band of the type 
described in Barrytown in 1882 (see text), but from a 
period Australian journal. With thanks to Bob Bolton. 

Popular music concerts in the early years 
were often of the minstrel variety, as in the 1858 
appearance of the "Nelson Ethiopian Serenaders" 
at the Odd-Fellows Hall: 

A solo on the fiutina and another on the 
concertina were exceedingly well-played, and 
evinced considerable skill on the part of the 
performers. The conundrums between the pieces 
(although some were rather ancient), the 
constant click of that musical instrument styled 
"the bones, " and the contortions of the man with 
the tambourine afforded a good deal of 
amusement; and the audience testified their 
appreciation of the efforts of the serenaders by 
repeated applause. We hear that the 
entertainment is to be repeated shortly, and we 
do not doubt that the second performance will be 

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The Concertina in New Zealand 

Figure 7. "Winter Amusements, Opunake C. M. Troupe," ca. 1875. The initials "CM." in the title (not shown) 
probably refers to the American group the Christy Minstrels, the name of which had by then become a generic 
term for "minstrel troupe." These are garrison troops from the Opunake Redoubt (Figure 8), one of whom is 
holding a German concertina. . Photograph by Sharp and Sons, courtesy the Alexander TurnbuU Library of the 
National Library of New Zealand. 


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The Anglo-German Concertina 

as successful as the first has been, especially if, 
in interim, some of the vocal music is practised 
under the critical ear of a musical professor. 

Such minstrel performances, loosely adapted 
from touring American originals, were all the 
rage in England at that time. They were common 
in small local lodges in the New Zealand Colony 
from the late 1850s through the 1860s. In 
Waikaka settlement. South Island, in 1883, 

A concert and dance took place here on the 1 7th 
inst. in aid of the funds, and at the same time to 
celebrate the opening, of the school just 
completed. It was well attended, there being 
about 1 00 present, and the whole affair was a 
genuine success. The first part of the programme 
was commenced by Mr Lamb, who recited "The 
Boy in the Tomb " in a manner well worthy of the 
applause which it received. . . . The next part of 
the programme was commenced by the "Waikaka 
Minstrels, " who from their first appearance kept 
the audience in continued roars of laughter, the 
parts of "Toney " and "Bones " being well 
sustained by Messrs O 'Shanassy and Brosnan 
respectively. As a clever mimic and actor the 
former cannot be excelled. The music was of 
first-class quality, the performers being Messrs 
McRae (violin), Evans (concertina), and Pacey 
and McLeod (flutes). The conundrums were 
principally local, hitting hard in all 
directions, not excepting the 
Committee. The performance wound 
up with a laughable farce, in which 
Messrs O 'Shanassy and Evans took 
leading parts. 

In the minstrels, two "endmen" — 
so called because they each were 
positioned at the outside ends of the 
troupe — played the bones and the 
tambourine, and provided a steady 
stream of wisecracks — as 
demonstrated by "Toney" and 
"Bones" above. This practice had been 
established by the very popular and 
trend-setting American minstrel group 
the Christy Minstrels, who travelled 
widely in Great Britain in the 1850s 

and 1860s. 

A photograph taken ca. 1875 of a minstrel 
troupe at the military garrison at the Opunake 
redoubt, which was located on the southwestern 
coast of North Island, also illustrates the role of 
the endmen of the minstrel shows (Figure 7). 
This troupe had seven soldier-musicians. The 
two on the ends, with their tambourine and 
bones, wear garish garb and one sports a top hat, 
whereas the five in the center are in normal 
clothing. Because the clothes of the central five 
match they are probably wearing everyday 
military garb. The concertina player has central 
placement, as befits his place at the musical core 
of the troupe. He plays a German concertina. The 
title of the photograph (not shown) is "Winter 
Amusements, Opunake C. M. Troupe." The 
initials CM. are probably an abbreviation of 
"Christy Minstrel." The Christy Minstrels had 
become so popular that their name became a 
generic title for any minstrel troupe in Britain and 
its colonies (see Chapter 2). 

The garrisoned redoubt at Opunake was 
established during the Second Taranaki War of 
1863-65 (part of the New Zealand Land Wars) on 
a high cliff overlooking a beach; it consisted of 
military dwellings surrounded by high palisade 
walls and a deep moat (Figure 8). After the Land 
Wars concluded in 1872, there was not a lot for 
the soldiers to do in terms of fighting, and music 

Figure 8. "The Armed Constabulary Redoubt at Opunake Taranaki," a 
drawing by G. Sherriff, 1881. From James Cowan's The New Zealand 
Wars, 1922. 


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The Concertina in New Zealand 

became a favorite pastime. The redoubt was 
abandoned in 1885. 

Church fiindraisers were another favored 
entertainment, as in the following 1884 account 
of a charitable fundraiser for an organ for the 
church at Henui. The concert included a solo on 
EngUsh concertina, and the press took special 
care to point out its superiority over the German 

At the rehearsal on Tuesday night Mr. Garry 
showed that he is a complete master of the cornet 
and concertina . . . Surprise has been expressed 
at Mr. Garry playing a concertina solo, and it 
may be as well to explain that the English 
concertina must not be confounded with the 
German ones. Though somewhat similar to it in 
appearance, it really bears about as much 
relation to it as a penny whistle does to a grand 
organ. The English concertina has a perfect 
scale, being in this respect similar to a piano, 
and in the hands of a master like Mr. Garry is a 
first-class instrument. 

Such unfavorable comparisons were 
markedly less common in New Zealand 
newspapers than they were in the EngUsh press at 
that time, and references to the use of English 
concertinas were much less common overall than 
references to German ones. 

Living in a man's world: timbering, mining, 
whaling, and soldiering 

Concerts and minstrel shows, however, were 

town fare, and most people in New Zealand in 
colonial days lived out in the bush — or in 
American phrasing, out on the frontier. The bush 
was largely a man's world in the very early days, 
until farms, sheep and cattle stations, and 
settlements were estabUshed. For these men, the 
concertina provided local amusement when even 
small towns were far out of reach. Consider the 
situation at a new steam sawmill built in 1863 in 
a virgin forest quite some distance from 
Auckland on the North Island: 

The number of men employed at the mill varies of 
course with the amount of work required to be 

done, but twelve men can fully attend to (it), 
and in one day 's work of ten hours duration ten 
thousand feet of lumber can be sawn and stacked 
in the yard for shipment. The men are paid 
weekly wages, and boarded and lodged. . . . The 
house accommodation for the men is somewhat 
limited at present; but other buildings are in 
course of erection . . . 

The men appear to pass their life in happy 
contentedness, far away from the noisy hum of 
the city, and its temptations. Their labour 
commences at seven in the morning, and 
terminates at five o 'clock in the evening. The 
favourite cutty-pipe appears to be the great 
consoler in their hours of ease, when the day 's 
work is over; and one or two being musically 
inclined occasionally indulge their comrades, as 
the quiet evenings pass onwards to night, with 
old and favourite airs on the concertina: songs 
and dances intervene, and the time then comes 
for turning in.^^ 

The mining towns were more than a little 
rougher, as this piece from the Otago Times of 
1877 indicates: 

Hitherto, Mr. Editor, I have been living in a very 
quiet and retired sort of style, hut I lately made 
up my mind to come to the front, and see what is 
really being done in this little town of Oamaru; 
so the other evening, at about nine o'clock, I 
started to "do " the town, commencing at the 
town boundary. 

With his friend "Spriggens," who offered to 
show the reporter around, they had a drink and a 
game of dice at a hotel, passed by a notorious and 
ill-kept bordello and grog shop, went into another 
hotel for a few more drinks, and then: 

[We] proceeded on our rounds. "That's a pretty 

hot shanty, " said my guide, alluding to a dirty- 
looking building, from whence came the sounds 
of a German concertina, and the rattling noise 
as of several people dancing hornpipes. We stood 
awhile to listen, and I then suggested that we go 
in and see the fun, if there was any. "Not if I 
know it, " relied Spriggins, "I can stand a good 


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The Anglo-German Concertina 

deal, but that shop is much too tropical for your 
humble servant. "'^ 

Spriggins then related a long story of a 
brawl he had with an Irishman in that bar, a 
brawl that he did not wish to repeat. 

From the mining camp at Gabriel's Gully in 

By daylight the town was as repellent as its vices, 

but in the evening, when the gullies were ablaze 
with candles, flares and lamps, the scene became 
invested with a romantic quality to which the 
miner, at heart a sentimentalist, readily 
succumbed . . . later when the lights of the tent 
dwellers would be slowly extinguished, the sound 
of fiddles and concertinas half muffled by 
dancing and the rhythmical stamp of heavy 
booted feet . . . told of a revelry that would last 
far into the night. 

From an account of 1869: 

The Nelson Examiner says a party of successful 

diggers who are staying in town sought 
amusement the other day in the hire of an open 
carriage and pair, in which wearing masks, 
surmounted by aged "belltoppers, " and rattling 
a concertina and three pairs of bones, they drove 
through the streets to the joy of the public houses 
on the route, at every one of which they stopped 
and "shouted all round. "An informant says that 
the men, who are "well to do, " and are 
experienced miners, declare that there is plenty 
of gold in the district, and propose staying here 
some months and prospecting the various 
probable localities. 

The gold rush was very short-lived, and 
civic leaders and newspaper editors struggled to 
turn rough mining camps into prosperous and 
respectable towns. The following letter to the 
editor from a disgruntled but witty miner of 
1871 — ^in all probability the letter is a satirical 
fake — ^protests a newly enforced "progressive" 
town ordinance demanding the early closing of 

To the Editor of the West Coast Times and 


Sir, — On peruseing your Ledder of Saturday I 
was grossly struck with the great injustice which 
you have committed in making reference to the 
way the young Men ofHokitika mispend their 
valuable time which I deny. Although to a very 
great extent on the whole they may be partly true, 
yet I deny the fact that all are to be blamed as a 
whole . . . Because some men abuse the benefit of 
the early closeing system [of bars] which is so 
far true, yet still on the other hand many among 
which I lay claim to be one have taken steps to 
develop their mental culture and improve their 
education, and with this laudable object having 
in view have made use of the lesure I now enjoy 
in studying grammar and composition and the 
other classics which if I had not the time to do 
would have ever remained to be an ultima thule, 
in fact before I enjoyed the benefits of early 
closing I was quite incapable of writing for the 
Press . . . As regards what you say about us not 
cultivating the arts, the improvement I have 
attained on the german concertina my friends 
swear by and many of us may be heerd at any 
hour of the night practiseing vocal choruses. 

In 1 876 a visitor to a whaling station at the 
Bay of Islands (near the northern edge of North 
Island) painted a surprisingly sober scene. His 
description recalls the work of Melville: 

After this stroll, I went with my friend to see some 
of the places where whaling men most do 
congregate at this hour of the evening — / mean 
the dance-rooms. I was ushered through a bar, 
and at the end I caught a glimpse of a small room 
only dimly lighted and full of the fumes of 
tobacco smoke. The room was crowded by the 
most wonderful assemblage to be found in the 
whole world. Indeed, it was a perfect museum, 
albeit in disorder, of the human race. Here, in a 
small apartment, not twelve feet square, about 
fifty persons were crowded together, standing 
upon tables in regular tiers; the shorter ones in 
front and the taller behind. There was a South 
Sea Islander cheek by jowl with a real American 
Indian; a Spaniard and a Maori; a half- caste 
and a negro as black as polished ebony; a 
Yankee and a, Lascar; a Portuguese and an 
Irishman, and various other interesting contrasts. 

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An American "red skin, " of gigantic stature and 
herculean proportions, was dancing in a small 
space in the centre, towering head and shoulders 
above the crowd on the floor. The dance was 
some peculiar Indian one, and it was 
accompanied by clapping of hands. It was not 
ungrace ful, and the time was very good. The only 
light shed upon this scene was from a tallow 
candle held by a Maori urchin. The scene was 
remarkably striking, and not without a certain 
wild beauty of its own. The dark, eager faces, the 
black, flashing eyes, the gay shawls, and the 
dimness and shadow gave an air of savage 
grandeur to the scene, which was worthy of the 
pencil of a Gustave Dore or a Cruikshack. For a 
moment I fancied myself in the backwoods of 
Missouri.... I visited another of these dance- 
rooms afterwards, but; the only perceptible 
difference of any importance was its larger size, 
and more aristocratic pretensions, the Indian 
dances and breakdowns giving place to 
fashionable waltzes and round dances, to the 
music of a German concertina. I observed that 
the orchestra appeared to suffer much from 
thirst. And now methinks I hear some nice 
readers lay down the paper and exclaim, "How 
dreadful ' " Well, then, certes there is nothing at 
all dreadful about it. It simply ajfords some 
harmless recreation after the labors of the day to 
a few people who might otherwise pass their 
evenings in card-playing or worse, and it is never 
disgraced by drunkenness or riot. Indeed, I may 
say with truth ofKororareka, that considering 
the mixed and continually changing nature of its 
population, and the frequent presence of whaling 
vessels, it is remarkably orderly and quiet, and 
scenes of drunkenness are comparatively rare. 

Soldiers involved in the Land Wars of the 
1860s carried concertinas with them on their 
campaigns. In an 1864 report from an Army 
encampment, a day of Sabbath rest was described 
as follows: 

In one tent was a group intently interested in a 
penny game at cards; another, a little farther on, 
exhibited a few recumbent figures, half asleep 
half awake, listening to a concertina performer. 

who, rechning on his back with one leg in the air, 
was, with some skill, but more vigour, playing 
some of the most fashionable airs of the day.^" 

Maori resistance sometimes included 
guerilla-Uke tactics. A response to such an 
encounter yields another sighting of concertina 
playing by soldiers in 1865: 

It is our painful duty to record the perpetration of 

another unprovoked and coldblooded murder, by 
the tribe who, a few months ago, murdered 
Keriti, the bearer of the peace proclamation. The 
victim upon this occasion is a man named John 
Arbon, who served twelve years in KM. 1 2th 
regiment, was discharged, and had been 
employed as a drayman by Mr. Simpson, during 
the last two years. Arbon 's duty was cart 
supplies — especially beer and spirits to the 
various military outposts. . . . On Thursday 
evening 30 Bushrangers went out under Capt. 
Pilmer, to endeavour to ferret out these 
miscreants. They seemed in high spirits, and 
marched out of town to the music of a fife, a flute, 
and a concertina.^^ 

Because they were relatively easy to 
transport and very useful in whiling away long 

periods of waiting, concertinas were much prized 
by soldiers. Some concertinas were even offered 
as prizes for marksmanship, as in this account 
from 1871: 

On the 13th inst., the Waikari Rangers competed 
for the prizes presented by Ensign MacKenzie to 
be shot for by members of the company in a 
handicap rifle match. The prizes were a valuable 
field-glass and a handsome concertina. . . . The 
prizes were given with the view of drawing out 
the non-shooting members of the company, and 
encouraging them to practise. ^'^ 

The Land Wars were over by 1872, but 
skirmishes and other conflict continued 
sporadically into the early 1880s. By that time, 
however, Maori resistance was largely passive. In 
an encounter in 1881, government troops invaded 
a large, peaceful but defiant Maori settlement at 
Parihaka on the North Island, expelling most of 


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Figure 9. Colonial troops preparing for the march on Parihaka, 1881. A soldier at the center is cleaning his rifle, while a 
reclining soldier at right plays the Anglo-German concertina. 

the Maori to South Island, and destroying much 
of the settlement. A photograph of soldiers as 
they prepared for the march on Parihaka shows a 
reclining soldier with an Anglo-German 
concertina (Figure 9). Over a century later, the 
government issued an apology for the 

As New Zealand's population balance tilted 
sharply toward the Europeans, the Maori 
absorbed many European customs and practices. 
In particular, the Maori embraced European-style 
dancing, with its chief instruments, the concertina 
and fiddle. That story will be related farther 
below, after a brief note on the Salvation Army's 
use of the concertina in colonial New Zealand. 

The Salvation Army in New Zealand 

The Salvation Army's beginnings in 
England have been treated in Chapter 2, above. 
By the early 1880s, they were rapidly expanding 
into the United States, Canada, AustraUa, New 
Zealand, and elsewhere, emphasizing efforts 
toward spiritual and temporal salvation for the 
poor in urban areas, especially those whose lives 
had been ruined by drink. In late nineteenth 
century New Zealand, there were no massive 
population centers filled with urban poor, but 
there were plenty of mining, whaling, and 


dmbering towns whose inhabitants were, in the 
eyes of the Army, in need of a temperance 
campaign. Imported from the streets of London 
and Liverpool, the Salvation Army's officers 
were initially looked upon with some skepticism. 
As usual, the concertina followed the Army into 

Dunedin, April 1 1883: 

The Salvation Army opened warfare to-day at the 
barracks in the Temperance Hall. Their day 
services only attracted small audiences, probably 
owing to the bad weather. Prior to the services in 
the hall they met in the centre of the town and did 
some singing, which the captain accompanied 
with a concertina and some exhorting. There are 
three of the army — Captain Pollard, Lieutenant 
Burford, and wife. . . . They are uneducated, and 
speak very common-place language, talking of 
the Salvation "Harmy" and so forth. Lieut. 
Burford said he had been a costermonger on the 
East End of London. . . . Their mission is to reach 
the degraded, the drunken, and the fallen, and 
they will go to their homes and haunts, and lure 
them out to services with singing and bands of 
music. From Dunedin they will send out officers, 
as these are enrolled, to the other cities of the 

The Concertina in New Zealand 

By 1889 Army personnel were also 
stationed on the North Island, at Napier: 

At a little before eight o 'clock last night, Sergt- 
Major O 'Grady, accompanied by a constable, 
proceeded to the Salvation Hall, and warned the 

"Army" against walking in procession. The 
proverbial difficulty of walking a pig to market 
was as nothing to the obstinacy of the 
Salvationists, who enthusiastically gave up their 
names, and marshalled their ranks into the street. 

"Captain " Bates stayed behind, but his good 
lady took his place, with the concertina, and 
away went the hideous burlesque to lame and 
discordant music. 

They were also present at Nelson, North 
Island, by 1889, where they received a critical 

Another new Salvation Army Captain has arrived 
in Nelson, and is six inches taller than any one of 
them yet. Oh, such a nice concertina player! 
Almost sudden death to you when listening.'^^ 

What a laugh the O.M. had when he visited the 
Harmy Barracks to see so many converts, and 
more particularly the larrikin element occupying 
the back seats. The Band consists of one 
concertina. . . . The congregation consisted of 
young men, old men and maidens, with a few of 
sweet-seventeens in the bargain.^^ 

An 1891 report from Otahuhu, North Island, 

says that, "there were some high times with the 
Salvationists on Sunday night — even the drum 
caught the infection, and went up higher; but the 
concertina man beat it, and he has not come 
down yet! May the saints keep him where he 

By 1889, when the Army celebrated its sixth 
year, there were "53 corps and 80 outposts. 136 
officers, 3250 soldiers, three rescue homes, and a 
prison-gate brigade.""^ All related expenses were 
paid for by monies locally raised; the Army 
clearly had more of a popular following than 
some caustic news commentaries suggest. Such 
success encouraged other home-grown 

temperance and salvation groups to try their luck, 
including the "Band of Hope" in Westown, 1890: 

A Band of Hope meeting was held here last 
Thursday evening, under the auspices of the New 
Plymouth Temperance band. Several friends from 
town also came to our aid, among whom were the 
Rev. P. W. Fairclough . . . and Mr. Roberts, who 
with his usual ability, accompanied the vocalists 
on the English concertina. The entertainment 
was opened with a sacred fantasia "Revival 
Gems " by the Band.^^ 

Another such group was the Blue Ribbon 
Army of the Gospel Temperance Mission, in the 
timbering areas around Auckland, 1891: 

I found a young man, who weekly prints the 
Observer, manipulating a hand press and 
handing printed strips to the visitors. I eagerly 
rushed for one of these, half expecting it 
contained an injunction to "DRINK 
found instead that it was an appeal to join the 
Blue Ribbon army. Then there was a good cup of 
coffee handed round, with cake and fruit, after 
which Mr. George Aldridge gave a short speech, 
and in "Army " style finished up by singing a 
hymn, accompanying himself on the concertina. 
The resemblance to the "Army" was kept up by 
the sending rounds of "canaries " to cadge 
donations. Ladies sang and played sweetly, short 
addresses were given, and a young man gave an 
excellent recitation showing how a congregation 
chose their parson for his physical courage (not 
a very Scriptural method, I fancy. f° 

As in England, there was a strong reaction to 
all the noisy street processions that accompanied 
temperance operations, whether of the Salvation 
Army or otherwise. Regulations against such 
processions were enacted, prompting the 
following protest letter horn Wellington in 1898: 

Sir — I would take it as a great favour if some of 
your readers would, through your columns, give 
me a little information about the police laws 
regarding bands on the street. My reason for 
asking this is because of an incident which I 


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The Anglo-German Concertina 

witnessed last night. It was this: Some sailors 
from one of the Home boats had formed 
themselves into a little band, consisting of a 
drum, two whistles, and a concertina, and as 

ihey were proceeding up the street a policeman 
came up and ordered them to desist, which they 
did. . . . Now what I want to know is this — is there 
a law in Wellington permitting the Salvation 
Army to play up and down the streets, especially 
on Sundays, and does that same law forbid a 
party of British sailors from playing up the street 
of a night after their day 's work, or is it just 
another sample of the intelligent police in this 
very much police-ridden town?^' 

With time, the Salvation Army was accepted 
into the local scheme of things, as people began 
to value the work they did with otherwise 
unreachable persons on the fringe of society. 
However, as the Army gradually moved from 
concertinas to brass bands, the record on 
concertina use by Army personnel in New 
Zealand grew silent by the end of the nineteenth 

The Maori and the concertina 

As the Land Wars faded, most Maori partly 
assimilated with — or at least became acclimated 
to — their European neighbors. Many Maori 
musicians and dancers adopted the German 
concertina, which was at one time so popular that 
it was called the "Maori piano." They also 
adopted German accordions, which gradually 
supplanted the concertina. Both came to be 
called, generically, "concertinas." The 
introduction of the concertina to Maori society, 
which occurred by the 1860s, seems certain to 
have resulted from contact with Europeans in 
frontier areas, such as that described below at the 
new, rough Scandinavian settlement at 
Norsewood, some miles inland from Hastings on 
the North Island. At the time of the following 
account in 1872, the settlement was only six 
weeks old, and lay along a new road that had 
been pushed through the "Seventy-Mile Bush," 
opening vast areas of new farmland for 

/ was rather taken aback — when stopping at a 
house which has the name of a hotel situate 
about the middle of the Seventy-Mile Bush. The 
scene that occurred was a most discreditable 
one, more particularly as it was on Sunday. I 
came in that evening, and everywhere I went 
were to be found inebriates assuming all sorts of 
attitudes, of which the horizontal seemed to be 
the most affected. Natives and Europeans were 
scattered indiscriminately from bar to parlor, 
and from end to end of paddock. Others who 
were not so much under the influence of Bacchus 
were playing quoits. Tea being announced, all 
who were not too far gone repaired to the supper 
table. . . . Then followed some more imbibition. A 
concertina was brought into requisition, and 
from it were extracted sounds of the most 
discordant description. Terpsichorean 
amusements were entered into, and native 
girls were whirled round the room at a lively 
pace . . . Songs were attempted until drink and 
sleep had prostrated some and given others the 
wise hint to retire. 

The concertina soon worked its way into 
tribal culture, as this account of a meeting 
between two tribes in 1876 demonstrates. A 
visiting European provides the description: 

The meeting was got up by Chief Paul as a 
welcome to visitors of the Ngaiterangi tribe, who 
attended in considerable numbers . . . An 
abundant feast was provided for those guests and 
the European visitors. On Saturday the 
Ngaiterangi challenged the Ngatiwhatua to a 
dance. The latter stood up first, and were 
followed by the Ngaiterangi. Food was then 
distributed, and subsequently the youths got up a 
dance in the European style, the old men being 
mere spectators of what they no doubt regarded 
as new-fangled notions entirely beneath the 
dignity of a warrior of the old school. Polkas, 
gallops, waltzes and schottisches were played on 
a concertina. When the energies of the dancers 
began to flag, a ten-gallon cask of beer, and a 
five-gallon keg of rum were tapped, and profuse 
libations were poured out on the altar of 
friendship between the two tribes. 


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Among young Maori a passion for 
concertinas and dance ensued. The following 
account is from 1878: 

Polka Mania Among the Maoris. 

The special correspondent of the New Zealand 
Herald writes: "Would it surprise your readers to 
know that the Hauhau Npatimaniapotos spend 
their evenings in dancing" — not the old dances, 
but the waltz, Schottische, polka, and quadrille. 
In all their vagaries dancing has become a mania 
with the young folks lately, especially with the 
ladies. The girls take to their pipes at every spell, 
but they maintain the character of their sex 
amongst Europeans for being indefatigable 
dancers. Both sexes dance admirably, and nearly 
all the lads and girls play the concertina well.^'* 

German doctor Max Buchner, who visited 
Rotorua in 1876, provided another account of 
such European dancing among the Maori. As 
reported by Mervyn McLean, Buchner wrote 

The younger generation at Ohinemutu preferred 
waltzes and other European dances to haka, and 
almost every evening a ball took place in an 
empty hut, held in front of a meeting house to 
music provided by a soldier 's concertina, at 
which he said the girls danced well, though he 
found the unevenness of the ground troublesome 
and was worried about treading on the girls ' 
bare feet. 

And yet another such occasion, on the event 
of a visit of British government representative to 
two native leaders named Te Wheoro and 
Tawhiao, in 1 878, at Kopua, North Island. On the 
second day a dance was held: 

After dinner thousands of Natives assembled 
between the whare [house] ofTe Wheoro 's 
people and the tents of the Europeans, ranged in 
circles. The ranks in front were sitting, the next 
kneeling, and the others stooping. It was a most 
exciting scene. Tawhiao was accommodated with 
a seat on a candle-box. Sir George Grey 
distributed a sack of lollies. The concertina was 
played in a masterly manner by a half-caste, and 

the Maoris danced the lancers, polkas, and 
waltzes very creditably. The highest good 
humour and best order existed, the Maori police 
keeping the centre clear. The scene was utterly 
unlike anything ever witnessed here. Another 
Maori improvised a drum accompaniment to the 
concertina with a tin dish. He played well. 
Everyone was in the highest spirits.^^ 

The practice of adopting European dance, 
music, and concertina playing closely resembles 
that of the Inuit of northern North America, who 
were introduced to such customs by visiting 
English and American whalers at about the same 
time (see Chapter 4). The Maori also began to 
use the concertina in their own native dances. At 
a large Maori gathering in Whakato (North 
Island) in 1885, three tribes of Maori consisting 
of nearly one thousand persons danced hakas for 
several hours; one group was "accompanied by a 
drum and concertina."^' The concertina became 
especially adapted to the poi dance, a women's 
group dance where each woman held a ball on a 
string ("poi"), executing intricate maneuvers with 
it. At a native gathering in 1901 at Rotorua, in 
honor of a visiting English Duke and Duchess, 
war dances and hakas were followed by such a 
poi dance: 

There was an air of peace and joy about the 
performance and the performers that charmed 
all. . . . Their evolutions were extremely graceful, 
and as a spectacle probably no more picturesque 
or striking grouping was ever witnessed on any 
stage. At one time they were accompanied by a 
couple of fiddles and a concertina, and at 
another by a banjo and a Jew 's harp. The lasses 
were bright and smiling, and delighted their 

Also at Rotorua, in 1908, a similar reception 
was held sans royalty. The writer comments not 
only on the dance but on the popularity of the 
concertina with Maori people: 

Ihe usual preliminaries over, different Ar aw a 

chiefs came forward and delivered spirited 
ovations. The palisade gate quickly opened, and 
to the music of a concertina (which is the Maori 


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piano), a party of poi dancers tripped lightly 
forward, and, led by one of the well-known 
Rotorua guides, manipulated their little raupa 
bells with such dexterity and exactitude as to call 
forth enthusiastic plaudits from the visitors, who 
agreed that it was "right good" . . . Soloman in 
all his glory would have been a bad second to 
most of the Maori maidens. 

With time, in many small towns and 
settlements, Maori and Europeans attended the 
same social dances in polite but unassuming rural 
society. Here are two such examples, the first 
from 1896, at a sheep-shearing on South Island. 
The dance took place in a wool shed, hence the 
name "shed dance." The description is a long 
one, but worth examining for the mixture of 
European and Maori styles of dancing and music: 

The shearing was over, but for a few hundred 
stragglers brought in only that morning from 
Waipuna, the out station. On the morrow the 
merry faces of the Maori shearers would vanish 
from the shed, the rotund forms of the starters 
would have gone, and the supple figures of the 
"fleace-ohs " would no longer flit up and down 
the boards; the clip of the shears, the clang of the 
pen doors, the short sharp cry of "sheep-oh, " the 
baa of a shorn wether to his unshorn mate no 
longer would be heard. We had grown used to 
the sounds, and should miss them when they were 
gone. This "kani-kani, " or dance, was not as 
slight a matter as Pirihira 's off-hand invitation 
might lead us to suppose. Reuben, the boss of the 
shed, had warned us that we were to be in 
readiness for "weteni" evening, when the 
shearers ' kani-kani was to take place. So we at 
the whare were not taken unawares. . . . By 6 the 
woolshed had been transformed —festoons of 
willows hung from pillar to pillar, branches of 
macrocarpa adorned the stencil-branded walls, 
and bunches of flowers begged from the house 
garden decked the bare comers. Refreshments 
were in plenty. . . . Ina body we sallied out and 
entered the ballroom. It was brilliantly lighted. 
My own old Bismarck lamp with the copper wire 
keeping the shattered shade together illuminated 
the refreshment table, the men 's big lamp lit up 
the body of the ballroom, and tallow candles 


flickered in tin sconces from every part of the 
shad. The floor was glossy with trodden-in 
candle grease. . . . The shed was fast filling. 
Maori beauties accompanied by their beaux were 
already there. They had ridden from Poukawa, 
from Kopanga, even from far-away Mangakuri 
.... The musicians come — Paddy, Pene 's son, 
with his concertina; Bill Edwards, from a 
neighbouring station, with his accordeon; and 
Major, our stud shepherd, with his well-beloved 
fiddle. Besides these instruments, Tamati brings 
his violin and Heta, of the Paki Paki Band, his 
clarionet. Shepherds from Poukawa, the station 
men, the servants from the houses, and some of 
the village girls make up the assemblage. 

So the dance commences. ' Partners for the 
grand march, " shouts out Tuatini, theM.C, and 
the lancers are announced. There is no rush to 
secure the ladies, as is often the case in more 
aristocratic assemblies when men are so many 
and ladies are so few as they are to-night. But the 
Maori is a gentleman, and it is a rule with him 
that guests should be first. So Reuben virtually 
shoves us, among other visitors, upon the dusky 
damsels who are so gorgeously attired. At first it 
seems as if it were going to be rather a solemn 
affair. There is not a bit of fun. The dancers are 
not yet warmed up to the business, or the music 
itself is a bit uncertain. We do as theM.C. bids us 
obediently, without question. Then there is a 
rollicking Schottische — a Highland one — and 
Reupera and his wife dance it, and Kerr swings 
round in that slow solemn way of his with little 
Pirihira as his partner. Hakoti dances with Eta, 
and enjoys it; Miti gets hold of his friend the 
cook; Nell dances for dear li fe with some heavy 
dame as a partner; while I put my best foot 
forward in order to prove myself a worthy 
partner for Wairakau, who has honoured me. . . . 

In the midst of this gaiety, in comes the house 
party. Then there is a waltz, and we introduce 
our hosts to the English ladies while we still 
dance with our dusky partners. Tuatini dances a 
sword dance after much persuasion, though he is 
really very eager to do it Then Maria and 
Pirihira and other girls, who are determined that 
their sex shall not be outshone as far as dancing 

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is concerned, dance the "Poi " dance, 
improvising a "Poi " with binder twine. They 
keep perfect time while they move in graceful 
swayings to the wild Maori song or chant that 
they utter. Then we return to our Enghsh dances 
again, and the house party are taken to the 
supper table, and taste the various dainties as a 
matter of form. . . . The fun grows fast and 
furious. Old Kirk — Paddy Kirk, a gentleman from 
Ireland — dances an Irish jig, and dances it as I 
am sure no Irish jig was ever danced before. 
Then old Mrs Henei and Mrs Pene call us to kai- 
kai, and we go into supper . . . We hurry as much 
as we can, for Reuben tells us, "Be quick now, 
plenty more yet to make the kai-kai. " So we hurry 
to make room for the "plenty more. " After the 
supper, after the limejuice, come the Maori 
hakas, in the dancing of which Maria and 
Pirihira distinguish themselves. As haka after 
haka and dance after dance succeed each other 
in quick succession, it is by no means a small 
hour in the morning when we once more reenter 
our whare, tired but pleased with our experience. 
The shearing ball must be pronounced a great 
success. . . . It was the first shearing ball ever 
held on the Te Tapu station — it will be the last: a 
ritualistic clergyman came out from England and 
converted the house people. They give their 
contributions now to Sunday school feasts and to 
altar cloths. They will not have anything to do 
with so mundane a thing as the Maori shearing 
dances, which are now voted inventions of the 
evil one. So next year the Maori shearing ball is 

7 40 

not to be. 

Another, briefer description is from 1903 on 
North Island: 

On Friday night lastMaketu threw off its cloak of 
classic repose, and was stirred into most 

unwonted activity. Europeans, half-castes, and 
Natives assembled in the Town Hall to indulge in 
dancing and singing accompanied by a Native 
local talent on the concertina. No one seems to 
know whether or not the event was to celebrate 
something of local interest, but the casual 
spectator on reaching the building was soon 
convinced that the parties assembled were there 

for the night and to thoroughly enjoy 


The following account from the Wellington 
Evening Post details a charming Christmas party 
that was held on the remote southern tip of South 
Island in 1910, where small settlements in what 
is now Fiordland National Park were reachable 
only by boat; 

In these islands people live so far apart that it is 
rather difficult to gather them together. Some of 
them had to be invited weeks beforehand, 
because the mail boat so seldom calls at some of 
the places. . . . I do wish you could have seen the 
shed when all was ready and the lamps and 
candles lit, it was so pretty, and the two lanterns 
which hung at the door threw a broad stream of 
light along the path from the beach to the shed. 
Very soon we heard a good deal of laughing and 
saw our guests coming up the path, handsome 
women with their babies slung on their backs in 
brightly coloured shawls (nearly all the people 
about here are Maori or half-caste), little big- 
eyed children running on in front and then 
running back to hide their faces in their mothers ' 
skirts when they saw us; and the bigger boys and 
girls and the men rather hanging back as if they 
felt very shy. 

After a feast and distribution of Christmas 
presents to the children, 

[W]e had all sorts of games, nuts in May, drop 
the handkerchief, follow my leader, and a great 
many others. A Maori gentleman had brought a 
concertina and very kindly "obliged" us with a 
little dance music, and very soon everyone was 
dancing gaily, even a poor cripple lad with a 
crutch found a partner for the polka. My heart 
sank at the thought of his dancing, but no one 
need have wished for a better partner; he was 
wonderfully light and kept beautiful time. I am 
still wondering however he managed it. At twelve 
o 'clock the party broke up. . . . There was no end 
of fun getting our guests safely started on their 
homeward way, for by this time the wind had 
risen and very big seas were breaking on the 
beach, but at length they were all embarked, and 


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the eight or nine boats pulled out into the dark. 
As we went up to the house we could hear them 
still laughing and singing, with a fitful 
accompaniment on the concertina. I think it was 
one of the jolliest parties I ever went to.'*'^ 

Social dancing among the settlers 

The reported enthusiasm for European 
dancing among the Maori occurred partly 
because they loved and valued social dancing, 
and partly because they observed the colonial 
settlers' enthusiasm for dancing. The early 
settlements were tiny, roads were poor, and great 
distances often separated sheep stations or farms 
from the nearest settlement. That degree of 
remoteness seems to have caused pioneers to 
appreciate such social contact aU the more. These 
dances took all forms, from rough to highbrow, 
but in almost all cases they were enthusiastically 
attended by rural folk whenever an opportunity 
presented itself. In pioneer areas of both New 
Zealand and Australia such dances included 
quadrilles, schottisches, lancers, polkas, 
mazurkas, and waltzes — ^the same general mix of 
ballroom dance styles known at that time in rural 
England, South Africa, and America. The 
instruments used included fiddles, flutes or fifes, 
and inexpensive German concertinas, or 
(especially in later years) button accordions. 
Pianos were both too expensive and too difficult 
to transport to remote areas. In neighboring 
Australia the popular German concertina was 
sometimes referred to as the "bush piano," and 
social dances in rural areas there became known 
in the twentieth century as "bush dances," a term 
that was not apparently known in Australia in the 
nineteenth century (Chapter 7). 

There are numerous documents that tie the 
concertina to such dancing, many more 
observations than were found in a similar digital 
search for such documents relating to England of 
that time, for example. This difference may have 
been partly due to the difference in treatment of 
such everyday affairs by the New Zealand press. 
A small-town newspaper carried the news not 
only for that town but for the surrounding region 
of tiny settlements and camps — ^there were no 
recognized national lU'ban papers similar in 


stature to England's The Times. For that reason, 
the point of view of New Zealand's newspaper 
writers was not oriented toward sophisticated 
urban society, but rather targeted individual 
farmers, graziers, miners, and their neighbors. 
What these people were doing, in terms of 
society news, usually included dancing, small 
home-based concerts, and entertainments, or 
fund-raising versions of such events for civic or 
ministry purposes. What 
follows is a group of passages taken from 
selected written accounts of bam dances, station 
dances, woolshed dances, and just plain dances — 
all of them including concertinas (many only 
including concertinas) as music providers. A 
local Auckland newspaper described a New 
Year's Sunday School picnic and dance in 1865: 

It was pleasing to witness the mirth that 
prevailed among all present, who seemed to 
abandon themselves for the nonce to enjoyment. 
Swings, football, cricket, kiss-in-the-ring, &c., 
were untiringly indulged in by the young, and 
even sometimes by those of riper years, while the 
votaries of Terpsichore tripped it merrily in the 
festive dance to the music of the fife and 

At the Halfway House (coach station) at 
Pigroot, on the Dunstan road, 1867, the inn had 
been auctioned right out from under some weary 

After the consternation had subsided, a strict 
search was instituted for something to eat and 
drink, when the discovery was made that Mr. 
Kilgour had provided a feast of boiled beef and 
four pound loaves, with free access to a barrel of 
ale. . . . The hungry passengers soon set to work 
in earnest . . . [eating] with considerable gusto. . 
. . A few bottles of the real "John Stewart" were 
brought to light by eager fossikers, when a more 
happy state of things prevailed; one traveler, 
musically inclined, indulged the people with 
some lively airs on the concertina; and an 
adjournment being made to the house, a dance 
was provided in the empty dining room.'''' 

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Concertina music enlivened a New Year's 
holiday steamboat excursion of mining families 
from the Otago district to an island off their 
coast, 1871: 

The lighthouse came in for a large share of 
attention, everything within it being burnished to 

a remarkable degree of brightness. Dancing was 
got up on the hills, and after the firing of the 
return gun continued on the beach, to the strains 
of a broken-winded concertina, with a piece of 
calico in the place of a missing handle.*^ 

An impromptu garden dance was held on the 
Queen's birthday, in the relatively large town of 
Auckland, 1871: 

Outside the garden gate, and but a little removed 
from it, a party of young lads and lasses enjoyed 
themselves by a trip on the light fantastic toe. The 
music was provided by a rough grinder upon a 
concertina much out of tune. The consequence 
was that the notes were anything but soothing to 
those who had sought the shades of the Domain 
(a common area) to ruminate in solitude. 
However, no difficulty stands in the way of the 
willing hands and hearts, and the dance went on 
for hours, and a large number gathered together 
as lookers-on.''^ 

The new sawmill town of Havelock, at the 
northern end of South Island, had just built a new 
town hall in 1878. An annual Forester's Ball was 
held then, and what follows is the first of many 
descriptions of dances which lasted, quite 
literally, all night long — these were serious 
dancers! It also is the first of several accounts 
that emphasize what care was taken in matters of 
dress by attendees of both sexes, even though 
they were but small town foresters: 

One glorious night in April at the Hall, 
The new Town Hall in Havelock, there was held 
The noble Foresters' Annual Ball, 
And oftentimes a burst of music swelled 
Upon the quiet-night, inviting those 
Who loved music and beauty to the dance. 
Where they could skip about with kid-clad toes. 
And bask in beauty's ever loving glance. 
Responsive to the call the young men came. 

With lovely ladies hanging on their arm; 
'Twas like a fairy tale to view the same 
Shining resplendently with every charm. 

The Hall was decorated bright and gay 

And sixty couples danced upon its floor 

(They found the key of it the other day) 

When I say it, of course I mean its door. 

Wild, high, and shrill the well-played whistle rose. 

The concertina and the old banjo. 

Starting the dancers as you may suppose. 

Who marked the time with light fantastic toe! 

I heard the M.C.'s. firm commanding voice 

Guiding dancers through the intricate maze ; 

I saw how youth and beauty did rejoice. 

My eyes grew dim with the most brilliant blaze 

Of gorgeous lamps and brightly flashing eyes 

And therefore could not see which was the belle — 

Salvo pudore every lady vies. 

So if I knew I should not like to tell. 

At twelve o'clock a table richly spread 
By host Dorreen who does the thing in style. 
Was surrounded with lovely ladies, led 
By gallant cavaliers. Many a smile 
Bright as the golden ray the morning sun 
Casts o'er the mountains fell unto their share, 
Thus gleefully their supper they began. 
Those happy gents and gentle ladies fair. 
Then once again with vigour unimpaired. 
Those joyous people did renew the dance. 
It was a jolly time they all declared. 
But one whole night was not a circumstance; 
As morn drew nigh and noisy chanticleers 
Crowed their loud joy to greet the coming day, 
Then stern fatigue o'er took the gentle dears. 
That whilom were so bounceable and gay; 
So the broad daylight ended the glad ball. 
Where all was peace, concord and pure delight. 
And the gay dancers left the new Town Hall 
In which they danced so merrily all night.''^ 

An 1882 fundraiser for a local hospital in 
Tuapeka Flat, a gold mining town on the South 
Island, drew over one hundred fifty persons of all 
ages from that village and surrounding camps. 
The evening (extending to dawn) consisted of a 
soiree/dinner, concert, and dance held in the 


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To use a hackneyed phrase, "the tables literally 
groaned" beneath the weight of sucking pigs, 
lambs, geese, ducks, &c., leaving out of the 
question the great quantity of cakes, pastry, &c., 
which were placed before the guests, all of 
whom, without a solitary exception, enjoyed 
themselves to thefull.''^ 

The tables were cleared by 11:00 p.m., and 
speeches and a concert ensued, including W. 
Clancey on concertina, who "was very happy 
with his 'Hallelujah Band,' which caused roars of 
laughter." There were sentimental songs, a 
comic, violin selections, and a reading, before: 

[T]he concert, which was brought to a close 
about midnight, ended with "God Save the 
Queen, " which was sung with enthusiasm. The 
room was then cleared for dancing, which was 
kept up to the break of day on Thursday morning. 
The music was supplied in first class style by 
Messrs Peters (violin), O 'Neil (cornet), and 
Clancey (concertina) — these three gentlemen 
giving there services gratis. . . . The 
entertainment was most enjoyable throughout.''^ 

It is easy for a small town press reporter 
with a responsibility for town boosterism to wax 

a bit too elegantly about the finery of these 
dances, as a reporter makes clear in an 1883 
Omnium, North Island gathering: 

"The floor was excellent, the refreshments 
recherche, and the music left nothing to be 
desired. " This is pretty tall talk for a bush ball in 
an old barn, with tea and scones, and dancing to 
the tune of a German concertina. But we have 
deemed it our duty to censure the heartless 
conduct of some person or persons who 
smuggled a cat into the instrument. It was unfair 
to the talented musician, cruel to the cat, and 
very near fatal to the audience. The musical 
director should be careful that no such practical 
jokes are played in the future.^'' 

In Ormond, North Island, 1883,"The dance 
on Easter Monday . . . was a complete success, 
the hall being well fiUed. The music rendered by 
Mr. Lewis on the concertina in conjunction with 


Mr. Higgins, gave great satisfaction."^' 

Dancing was just the thing to revive a failed 
"entertainment," especially when a concertina 
was present, as in the village of Waikiekie, North 
Island, in 1883: 

The Mangapai Mutual Improvers gave a magic 

lantern entertainment in the East End School, on 
the evening of Friday, 21st July, and in defiance 
of the weather and bad roads there was a very 
good muster. The notice announced that in 
connection with the magic lantern entertainment 
there would be vocal and instrumental music, but 
the cold southerly wind during the early part of 
the day must have cooled the musicians ' courage, 
as the singing was very flat. The instruments 
consisted of one asthmatical concertina, which 
could not get up wind enough to take its part in 
the programme. The national anthem being sung, 
all were preparing to leave, when a gentleman 
stepped on platform and announced that anyone 
desirous of doing the "light fantastic " would 
have an opportunity of doing so if they remained. 
After the room was cleared, the short-winded 
concertina struck up the soul-inspiring strains of 
the "Waikiekie war dance, " and, oh, ye gods I 
'twas a sight to see them prance round as they 
tore up the room. There was a sudden tucking of 
feet under the seats, and an expression of pain 
was seen to pass over the face of any unfortunate 
that was foolish enough to have his feet 

It would be splendid to have a recording 
today of the Waikiekie war dance. 

In Waikaka settlement. South Island, also in 
1883, a fundraising entertainment for a school 
began with a recitation and some minstrel show 
antics, as was discussed above. Following the 
minstrel entertainment. 

The room was then cleared for dancing, which 
was particularly well conducted. . . . The music, 
by Messrs Evans (concertina) and McRae 
(violin), was most inspiriting, and kept the 
dancers on the floor "till the cock did crow and 
the day did dawn, " M'hcn all dispersed 
thoroughly satisfied with their night 's 
amusement. " 

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It is worth emphasizing that the dance lasted 
until dawn. At a similar entertainment at Evans 
Rat in 1885, "an adjournment was made to the 
schoolroom, where, to the dulcet tones of music 
sweet, the giddy mazes of the whirling dance 
were entered into with whole-souled spirit, and 
they kept going till the rooster's deep- voiced 
clarion drowned the strains of the concertina and 
violin."^"* Besides a passion for socializing and 
dancing on the part of rural New Zealanders, 
there is a less obvious reason that these dances 
lasted throughout the night. People walked, rode 
bareback, and drove buggies to these events, 
sometimes over long distances. It made sense to 
return home at daylight rather than in the middle 
of a dark night. Figure 8 shows a couple walking 
home to their farm, with baby carriage, at 
dayUght after enjoying just such an evening. 

Mr. Evans, the concertina player in 
Waikaka, played at several events in that area, 
such as this one in the same village in 1890, 
where "the dancers enjoyed themselves 
thoroughly, tripping to the strains of the 
concertina played by Mr. G. Evans, and the 
violin by Messrs Crawford, Gilfoyle, and 

Not all the music made by the concertina at 
dances was met with approval. At a bam dance in 
Arapohue, near Auckland, in 1889, "dancing was 

started at about 10 to the music of a concertina 
with half the keys gone, a broken-winded 
accordion, a cornet poorly played, a violin played 
by an amateur, and the piano." This observer may 
have been difficult to please, as he also 
mentioned that "the cake was decidedly tough.""^'' 
At a dance at Fitzroy Harbour in the same region 
that same year, "J.M. and the concertina were 
there, but the concertina seemed to suffer from 
shortness of breath occasionally."" Such 
references to "asthmatic" and "wheezing" 
concertinas usually refer to the difficulty of some 
of the lesser-quality German concertinas to keep 
up with the pace of the dance, one reason that the 
improved Anglo-German models were prized. 

Some dances were initiated by hopeful 
bachelors in mining camps where ladies were 
somewhat scarce, as in Otiake, South Island: 

A social entertainment was given on the evening 
of Friday, the 4th inst., by the bachelors of this 
place. Invitations being given to all, and the 
evening being fine, there was a good turnout. . . . 
Dancing then commenced, Mr. Hodgkinson 
playing the fiddle, and Messrs Tripp and 
Mclnnes the concertina. . . . Meetings like this 
now and again have a tendency to promote 
harmony in the district as well as give 
amusement to many.^^ 

Figure 10. "Returning Home After the Dance." A'eii' Zealand Illustrated 
Magazine, August 1, 1901. Social dances typically lasted until dawn, in part to 
allow participants to return home in daylight. 

When bachelors in 
mining camps greatly 
outnumbered the ladies at 
such a dance, problems 
were created that were 
solved in a practical 
manner, as at Komata, 
North Island, in 1898: 

A problem presented itself 
early in the evening as to 
how twenty nine young 
fellows were to divide the 
various hops with six young 
ladies; it was ultimately 
solved by calling Tom 
"Matilda, " and George 
"Mary, " etc. About midnight 


The Anglo-German Concertina 

refreshments were handed round — lime-juice in a 
nice new bucket borrowed from the storekeeper 
. . . Charlie Adams provided music fit for a king 
with his little concertina until early mom, when 
the show closed with a snuffle.^^ 

At other times, the dance was initiated by 
the ladies, as at Turua in 1893: 

The quietude of Turua was broken on Tuesday 
night . . .by a social . . . where all the youth and 
beauty of Turua had collected at the invitation of 
the ladies. . . . The music was supplied by Messrs 
Wilton (concertina), Whitehouse (violin) and W. 
Birdwood (accordion). ^° 

In almost all of these descriptions, the names 
of the musicians are carefully announced. This is 
in contrast to such press clippings in England 
where dance musicians were usually left 
nameless. The newspapers were careful to credit 
these musical farmers, graziers, and miners, as 
their efforts were often volunteer ones, and they 
were usually considered by newspaper reporters 
as upstanding members of the community rather 
than as hired help. 

The above account of the dance at Turua 
mentions that both a concertina and an accordion 
were present in the same band. This was not 
uncommon; the same pairing was noted for the 
dance in Arapahue in 1889 and at the Maori 
sheep-shearers ball of 1896, both described 
previously. These accounts are significant 
because of the tendency in some written 
descriptions of musical events to use the term 
"concertina" when a button accordion is being 
described. The concertina was the first of the two 
instruments to become globally popular — 
although it followed the popular flutina, a type of 
early accordion — and its name later became 
somewhat generic for a bellows-driven free-reed 
instrument among reporters and observers not 
careful with their terminology. When both the 
concertina and accordion are included in one 
report, the description is of course clear. The 
chance for such confusion of free-reed terms is 
always present, but it seems likely that in most 
cases, the concertina is correctly identified. 


A Last Flourish, then Silence 

Decline and disappearance 

The turn of the century brought modernity 
and the seeds of change. As he obsei"ved the 
Komata dance in 1898, mentioned above, a 
reporter also noticed the following: 

As our little settlement is going ahead slowly but 
surely, it is only fair that the outside world 
should know a little more about us. I wonder 
what old Tutanekai would say, could he but visit 
us now and see the engines, aerial trams, and 
electricity that have crept into the place of the 
old-time whares and kauris and nothings.^' 

As this modernization arrived, the old rural 
dances began to slowly fade away. In reporting 
some of the later dances, the descriptions are 
more detailed than ever, pointing out even the 
names of tunes and dances, as in this probably 
fictional account of 1903 entitled, "A Wayback 
Hop in Maoriland." It is worth recounting in 
some detail, because it is one of the best 
descriptions of such a dance in sheep-raising 
country. As usual, the concertina had a place of 

There was a big muster of "skirts " and their 

attendant "blokes " — a large percentage of the 
latter having hailed from remote stations— for the 
occasion, a dance, was one of the most important 
events in the history of the township. The 
temperature was anything hut congenial to 
dancing, but with the assemblage the 
oppressiveness of the air was, apparently, only a 
secondary consideration. Predominating, there 
were farmers "drudges, " station hands, some of 
the opposite sex (dazzlingly wardrobed with vari- 
coloured materials) being of considerable girth 
despite their incessant toil — cowboys, fishermen, 
and many other individuals who more or less 
dabbled in pastoralism. 

In an advertisement announcing the dance, 
published in the "Bush Banner, " it was stated 
that the committee had the necessary authority to 

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The Concertina in New Zealand 

refuse admittance to any party they deemed 
undesirable, consequently those present, must be 
designated full-blown "influential settlers. " 
Seated along either side of the hall, which was, of 
course, profusely decorated with greenery, were 
a comfortable-looking lot of brunettes and 
blondes, conspicuous by their make-up, all 
immersed in close consultation with their 
respective "blokes. " Like their ladies, the 
"blokes " — a particularly verbose and noisy 
crowd had obviously made extensive 
preparations to exhibit themselves on the 
"boards. " Each was attired in peculiar garb — 
many in "bell-bottomed" trousers, one or two 
with watch-chains made up of sharks ' teeth and 
the three-penny piece, and figuring largely on the 
lapel of their coats were button-holes vieing in 
size with the prize cauliflowers at an 
horticultural show. The weird, soul-destroying 
strains or the string band, composed of a 
concertina and a flute — instruments that were 
guilty of loyal service at innumerable previous 
"hops " — were now filling the room and 
exhilarating those about to participate in the 
"flutter. " 

Immediately the overture ceased, the director of 
ceremonies, a preternatural ly unlovely-looking 
person, with an excess of dignity, thrust himself 
on the attention of the revellers. 
"Take yer partners for ther walse! " and there 
was a rush to the floor in response. 
"Two more couples this way! " 
"Eh ther, Bill, bing 'er along 'ere!" 

Ere, some ofyous coves over ther take Susie. 
She ain 't got a bloke! " 
And timorous Susie, a diminutive, 
"prepossessing" lady, was handed a rough, bush 
specimen of humanity, without the customary 
formula of introduction — a frequent oversight on 
the part of the M. C. 

A happy smile spread over the countenance of the 
ladies when the M. C. whistled, or rather, 
shrieked across to a comer of the room where 
the cowboys engaged to provide the dance-music 
were located. The concertina struck up the 
familiar air, "The Ship I Love, " in a tortured, 

disguised key, and round the room tripped the 
damsels tossing their unkempt hair about their 
sun-tanned faces, and throwing their skirts which 
suggested the aroma of cow-yards but which 
yelled lavender of musk in no uncertain way. 
When the music (as it was humorously 
designated) was fairly under way, each damsel 
enfolded by her partner (or "bloke") in his own 
particular style, the incidental comicalities that 
occurred, and the original way in which the 
various dances were executed, was very 
diverting. For instance, there were a dozen 
different ways of dancing the mazurka, ranging 
from a representation of the expiring kick of a 
bogged cow to the un-oiled revolutions of a 
chaff-cutter. Another dance which received a still 
greater complication was the barn-dance, for it 
was astonishing how the dance was transformed. 
But, nevertheless, the way in which it was danced 
at this shivoo namely, with several extra dainty 
little kicks by the ladies, was decidedly more 
graceful than the original. After it was 
considered that sufficient enjoyment had been 
extracted from the first dance, the ladies took 
their seats with characteristic clamour and 
gesticulation and the "blokes " skedadelled out of 
the room. They congregated in the vestibule of 
the hall and horse-racing was the absorbing 
topic discussed. Several of them lolled about near 
the main entrance to the room and grinned like 
satyrs at the ladies while one or two others 
commented on the prowess of the various 

"She 's a spiffin ' walser '" said a tall, raw-boned- 
looking man. "Don't yer think so, Dave?" 
"Oh, she ain 't too dusty on her pins. " 
As the night wore on the air was redolent of the 
"wine " that maketh glad the heart of man, and 
which maketh mad the feet of "blokes. " "When 
my Bill 'as a little drop in 'im he can darnce a 
treat, " said a giddily-attired blonde, as she, 
elated with conquest, bounced around with her 
Bill in a paroxysm of grotesque evolutions. The 
gathering was now becoming more and more 
enthusiastic and unique from a city man 's point 
of view, and the awful gymnastics of Billy Hart 
and Co. (a few exuberant characters) were 
responsible for much vociferous applause, while 


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the old-time lover of the afore-mentioned was 
gazing "with envenomed eye " at the allegedly- 
amusing personage. 

The Slipper at such a dance is distinctly 
entertaining, and always provides an 
extraordinary spectacle. On this occasion, it very 
much resembled the operations of a half dozen, 
ship-wrecked, famished wayfarers on their first 
meal for a week. Subsequently, more dancing 
was vigorously pursued, in spite of the exuberant 
state of the males, for the programme was an 
almost interminable one. It is usually not 
considered etiquette in dancing classes to drop 
confectionery down the neck of the ladies 
dresses, but in this case, this form of "badinage " 
was admissible. A little before 4 o 'clock am the 
gathering dispersed, or rather broke up, in wild 
confusion. It was getting near milking time. The 
following day many station hands failed to put in 
an appearance at their respective posts, but one 
and all felt that they had had a "real good 
time. ""^ 

As the old dances died out, the poetic 
reminiscences began. By the advent of World 

War I, nostalgia for older, simpler pioneer ways 
was rampant, as this piece from the urban 
Wellington Evening Post indicates: 

And the dances at night! People came from 
miles around, roads or no roads, fording the 
dangerous Manawatu, ploughing through the 
mud of bush tracks up to their horses ' girths, 
carrying in front of them on the pommel of the 
saddle the precious parcel of the fine raiment 
they were to wear at the dance and the magic 
shoes of Terpsichore to charm away for a few 
heavenly hours the monotony of the long struggle 
with nature. They danced with abandon all 
through the night to the dawn again. No tango or 
two-step then, but the stately waltz of forty years 
ago, which moved with the dignity and gravity of 
the planets in their courses. And the "celestial 
music of the spheres " was often the humble 
orchestra of the fiddle and the concertina, with 
the time struck by the triangle — splendid time, 
too, and music that would make a clod "trip the 
light fantastic, " as the local paper would venture 


to say on more than one occasion. People took 
their dancing seriously then, with the d Alberts, 
the Caledonians, the mazurka, the schottische, 
and even the quadrilles. The intervals were not 
wasted either, for while the perspiring partners 
fanned themselves vigorously on the benches 
round the hall, waiting for the next dance, 
someone would "oblige with a song" — no music 
hall ditty or sentimental inanity either, but 
something big and solid, like the men 
themselves — songs like The Village Blacksmith 
or The Death of Nelson, sung robustly, with the 
volume of sound that comes from singing in bush 
camps under the open sky. After the dance, the 
song, and then the dance again, and so on until 
morning, when, to horse and away home for 
another day 's toil. 

The above description of a pioneer gathering 
mentions one reason for the demise of the 
concertina in the social dance: the modern two 
step and the tango had replaced the old 
quadrilles, lancers and waltzes, and many of the 
tunes for these new dances were more chromatic 
than the two-row Anglo-German concertinas 
could handle (see discussion. Chapter 2). In 
addition, as modern appliances like the 
phonograph made their way into rural areas, 
music became readily available, and the need to 
learn and practice on a musical instrument 
diminished.. A 1908 advertisement in the 
Tuapeka Times beckoned the reader to "Listen! 
Wouldn't it be delightful on long summer 
evenings to have a phonograph on your verandah, 
pealing forth sweet floods of music? Wouldn't 
your family enjoy it, your friends . . . would it not 
indeed be a delight to yourself?"^ Such recorded 
music signaled the passing of a favored music- 
playing pastime of many of New Zealand's 
farmers and graziers, just as it did for those in 
Australia, Britain, L-eland, America, and 
elsewhere. The old rural dance bands, along with 
the once-prized and popular German and Anglo- 
German concertina, slipped out of public 

The rise and fall of the concertina can be 
measured by tabulating references to it and other 
musical instruments in digital New Zealand 

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The Concertina in New Zealand 








^ J^^ JY 


■ harmonica 

□ flutina 

□ accordion/eon 

□ concertina 

1840s 1850s 1860s 1870s 1880s 1890s 1900s 1910s 

Figure 11. "Sightings" of free reed instruments in New Zealand newspapers, by decade. Sightings include advertisements and 
articles. Source: Papers Past archive. New Zealand National Library. Note that sightings of two alternate spellings of 
"accordion/accordeon" were combined in this chart. The concertina was the free reed most encountered from 1860 to 1890, 
and was overtaken by the accordion thereafter. 


□ accordloiVeon 

□ concertina 
■ guitar 

1840s 1850s 1860s 1870s 1880s 1890s 1900s 1910s 

Figure 12. "Sightings"of accordions, concertinas and guitars in New Zealand newspapers, by decade. Sightings include 
advertisements and articles. Source: Papers Past archive. New Zealand National Library. The guitar, used in both popular and 
classical music, overtook both concertinas and accordions at the turn of the century, at the same time that dance music 
became more chromatic with the addition of ragtime and jazz forms. Popularity of all three instruments dropped dramatically 
in the early twentieth century as phonographs became available. 


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The Anglo-German Concertina 

newspaper archives {Papers Past, in the New 
Zealand National Library, is the source). Figure 
11 shows that relative to other free-reed 
instruments like the harmonica, accordion and 
flutina, such "sightings" of the concertina were 
very high from the 1860s to the 1880s, and 
moderate from the 1890s through the first decade 
of the 1900s. By the 1890s, however, the 
accordion had overtaken the concertina. Both 
instruments took an enormous hit in numbers of 
references — and by implication popularity — in 
the 1910s, as recorded music gained widespread 
favor. The impact of chromatic music upon both 
the concertina and accordion can be seen in the 
rise of references to the guitar in the late 1890s 
and early 1900s (Figure 12). In the early and 
middle nineteenth century, the guitar had 
primarily been used for classical and other 
highbrow music, and it did not have a significant 
place in popular music or the dance bands of that 
time (for example, the band in the photograph in 
Figure 7). Between the 1890s and 1900s, 
however, the guitar overtook both free-reed 
instruments in numbers of newspaper sightings as 
well as in general popularity, a situation that 
remains to the present day. Newly chromatic 
melodies doomed the concertina and the button 
accordion, which were basically diatonic 
instruments. When recorded music played on 
phonographs became readily available in the first 
decade of the twentieth century, home-made 
music suffered a general decline, and the drop in 
free-reed usage — as gauged by numbers of 
newspaper "sightings" — was precipitous (see 
Figure 12). Usage of the guitar dropped as well, 
but in a much less pronounced fashion, and 
survived to dominate popular music in the 
twentieth century. The once-dominant concertina 
all but disappeared. 

The folk revival in New Zealand 

By the late twentieth century, there was a 
reawakening of sorts for folk music in New 
Zealand. The seventies and eighties saw the 
emergence of several popular "bush bands,"' but 
they were seemingly bereft of concertinas, as 
were, for the most part, their Australian 


counterparts (see discussion. Chapter 7). The 
fiddles and accordions of the old days were still 
there, but the position of the concertina (not to 
mention the fife and flute) had been usurped by 
the guitar, which had never enjoyed a prominent 
place in the old bam and shed dances. As 
musicians in these new groups searched for 
appropriate material, it was perhaps inevitable 
that they borrowed heavily from Ireland and 
Scotland's globally popular contemporary Celtic 
music. They also appropriated guitar-rich "folk" 
song styles and material from America and 
Britain, as well as Australia. Much of this music 
would not have been recognized by the dance 
musicians of old, who played for schottisches, 
quadrilles, and mazurkas rather than for Irish jigs 
and reels. As a blogger at a Musical Traditions 
website recently put it: 

Unfortunately the Bush Band phenomena of the 
seventies and eighties pretty much redefined what 
it was to be "Kiwi " music, with a completely new 
repertoire of Irish and Scottish tunes and songs 
replacing what would have actually been played 
and sung on the goldfields and in the whaling 
ships. Revisionism isn 't confined to the political 
arena it seems. ^ 

Surely part of the disconnect stems from the 
fact that the New Zealand bam and shed dance 
musicians died out, along with most of their 
music, before that genre was noticed by the 
recording industry in New Zealand, and little 
research seems to yet be available on the music 
of the old shed dance musicians. The author 
knows of no recordings of still-Uving concertina 
players who began their plajdng during the 
halcyon shed dance days of the late nineteenth 
century — no equivalents to England's William 
Kimber or Scan Tester, to Ireland's Mrs. Grotty 
and William MuUaly, or to Australia's Dooley 
Chapman. This dearth of recorded examples of 
early concertina players mirrors that of the 
United States, which also had a rich history of 
Anglo-German concertina playing and yet lacks 
any recordings of it. However, much field 
recording was done of the Maori people by 
ethnographers in the early twentieth century. It is 
possible that early recordings of European dance 

Copy rig hied material 

The Concertina in New Zealand 

tunes played by them (acquired from the settlers) 
may have survived, which could provide some 
insight for modem day revival bands. Perhaps 
there is a concertina player or two trapped within 
those old wax cylinders. 

Even though the Irish traditional music 
explosion, as well as the advent of contemporary 
"folk" music, have strongly affected modem 
New Zealand bush bands, and although the 
growing use of the Anglo-German concertina in 
Irish music has generated many new players 
worldwide as a result, usage today of Anglo- 
German concertinas in New Zealand seems to be 
at relatively low levels, judging by membership 
in groups like the Members Forum at, or of the International 
Concertina Association. The irony is thick — the 
concertina was at the forefront of rural dance 
music in the country throughout the colonial 
period. To the extent that New Zealanders wish 
to enjoy their own brand of "old time" traditional 
folk music, one would hope that usage of the 
Anglo-German concertina can be revived there. 


Sadly, there seem to be few resources for 
players specific to the Anglo-German concertina 
in New Zealand today. A New Zealander now 
living in Sydney Australia, Chris Ghent, builds 
fine Anglo concertinas; his website is at 

Figure 13. A Maori musical group, with a Salvation Army major (center) and his wife (left, with infant), 1895. A 
Maori man is holding an Anglo-German concertina. From "Fight the Good Fight: the Story of the Salvation Army in 
New Zealand, 1883-1983," by Cyril R. Bradwell (Reed Ltd, Wellington, 1982). 


The Anglo-German Concertina 


' As quoted by Phil Garland, Faces in the Firelight 
(Wellington: Steele Roberts Publishing, 2009), 
^ Wallace Liggett, The History of the Accordion in 
New Zealand (Takapuna, New Zealand: New Zealand 
Accordion Association Inc., 1993). The quote was 
taken from a review of that work by Henry Doktorski 
online at 
reed/reviews/nzbook. html 

^ Richard Copping, Captain, Reminiscences of Captain 

Richard Copping {1821-1892), Special collections, W. 

L. Crowther Library, State Library of Tasmania, 1892 

(CRO.Q.639.22 COP). The quote was found in Geoff 

Wolff, Music of the Chatham Islands, New Zealand . . 

. a few impressions: . 

" "The Wellington Musical-Art Union, 1872," Evening 

Post, (Wellmgton), September 7, 1872. 

^ "Art Union of Watches, Jewelry, &c.", Marlborough 

Express, May 30, 1874. 

® Strath-Tien. Otago Witness, January 28, 1882. 

Strath-Tien, Otago Witness, June 17, 1882, p. 13. 
* News of the Week, Otago Witness, 21 May 21, 1870. 
® "South Dunedin School," Otago Witness, Issue 1044, 
December 2, 1871, p. 3. 
^° Local news. Observer, June 3, 1882. 

"Notes from Barrytown," Grey River Argus, 
February- 4. 1882. 

^' "Ethiopian Minstrelsy," Nelson Examiner and New 
Zealand Chronicle, June 12, 1858. 
""Waikaka." Otago Witness, September 1, 1883. 

"Concert in aid of the Henui church organ," 
Taranaki Herald, November 5, 1884. 
15 "/^ Visit to a Steam Sawmill," Daily Southern Cross 
(Auckland), August 18, 1864. 

"Oamaru After Dark," North Otago Times, October 
4, 1877. 

" Alexander H. McLintock, The History of Otago: 
The Origins and Growth of a Wakefield Class 
Settlement (Dunedin: Otago Centennial Historical 
Publications, 1949). Quote included in Phil Garland, 
Faces in the Firelight, Steele Roberts Pubhshing, 

"The Benefits of Early Closing," Illustrated West 
Coast Times, July 3, 1871. 

"A Whaler's Dancing House at the Bay of Islands," 
Evening Post, May 20, 1876. 

"The War in Auckland," Daily Southern Cross, 
Februaiy 19, 1864. 

"The Late Murder by the Hau Haus," Evening Post, 
December 12, 1865. 

^- "The Volunteers," Otago Witness, June 22, 1872. 

^ "The Salvation Army in New Zealand," Waikato 
Times, April!, 1883. 

"Napier News," Poverty Bay Herald, August 28, 

^Nelson, Observer, May 18, 1889. 

-'^Nelson, Observer , June 8. 1889. 

"Salvation Army Anniversary," Evening Post, April 
10, 1889. 

"Salvation Army Armiversary," Evening Post, April 
10, 1889. 

^ Westown, Taranaki Herald, November 7, 1890. 

^° "A Blue Ribbon Feast," Observer, May 30, 1891. 

Letter to the Editor, Evening Post, November 1 9, 

^' "The Scandinavian Settlement, Seventh -Mile 
Bush," West Coast Times, December 20, 1872. 
"A Native Meeting at Orakei," Daily Southern 

Cro5.v, April 17, 1876. 

^'^ "Polka Mama Amongst the Maoris," Taranaki 
Herald, Uscy 2S, 1878. 

Merv^n McLean, Maori Khisic (Auckland: 
Auckland University Press, 1996), p. 274. 
^ "Waikato and Waitara gatherings, a newspaper 
article quoted m Native Lands Bill," New Zealand 
Parliamentary Debates, (Wellington), vol. 30, 1878, 
p. 894. 

"The Native Meeting," Poverty Bay Herald, 
February 24, 1885. 

^ "The Native Demonstration at Roturua, Taranaki 

Herald June 17, 1901. 

"Maori Reception," Otago Witness, August 1 9, 

Cecil Thompson, "A sketch at the Shearing," Otago 
Witness, March 26, 1896. 
"Te Puke," Bay of Plenty Times, September 18, 


"A Christmas Party in the Southern Sounds," 
Evening Post,T)ecerdber 2A, 1910. 
'^^ "The Domain," Daily Southern Cross, January 3, 


Dunstan, Otago Witness, August 2, 1867. 

'^^ "The New Year," Otago Witness, January 7, 1871. 
'^^ "The Queen's Birthday," Daily Southern Cross, 
May 25, 1871. 

''^ "The Foresters' Ball," Marlborough Express, May 
29, 1878. 

"Entertainment at Tuapeka Flat," Tuapeka Times, 

June 24, 1882. 

'^^ "Entertainment at Tuapeka Flat," Tuapeka Times, 
June 24, 1882. 

^° "Omnium Gathering," Observer, January 13, 1883, 
p. 281. 


Copy rig hied material 

The Concertina in New Zealand 

"Ormond Letter," Poverty Bay Herald, March 28, 

"The Country," Observer., August 11, 1883 

"Waikaka, From a Correspondent," Otago Witness, 
Issue 1658, September 1, 1883. 
'''' "Social Gathering at Evans Flat," Tuapeka Times, 
February 21, 1885. 

Waikaka, Otago Witness, April 17, 1890. 

Arapohue, Obser-ver, December 21, 1889. 

"Fitzroy Harbour," Observer, July 13, 1889. 

Otiake, North Otago Times, November 8, 1892. 
^^Komata, Observer, March 12, 1898. 
* Turua, Observer, June 24, 1893. 
" Komata, Observer, March 12, 1898. 

"A Wayback Hop in Maoriland," New Zealand Free 
Lance, January 24, 1903 

Social Life, "Pioneers at Play," Evening Post, 
November 5, 1914. 

^'^ "Listen!" (advertisement), Tuapeka Times, July 1, 

The term "bush band" appears to have been 
borrowed from Australia durmg the late-twentieth- 
century folk revival. A list of some of the New 

Zealand bands is at 
Posting by Pat Simmonds, November. 17, 2003, in 
thread "Folk Music Collection in New Zealand — part 
4," Musical Traditions website, 


Copy rig hied material 

The Anglo-German Concertina 


Copy rig hied material 

Chapter 9. The Concertina in North America^ 

During the afternoon . . . in all directions over the range could be seen little coils of dust rising from trails. It was 
made by the hoofs of horses hurrying along, carrying guests to the dance. Those who had reached there early had 
arranged a stage for the orchestra and bar, by placing two dry-goods boxes close together, and when the hour 
came for the festivities to begin, the young man with the concertina on his lap sat on one box and the keg of 
whiskey on the other. . . . Between dances the guests would help themselves to liquid refreshments and then drop a 
silver piece in a tin cup that stood close by. About three o 'clock in the morning trouble began, and the jingling of 
spurs that kept tune with the concertina became louder and faster and then a few shots were fired through the 
ceiling . . . The young man, with trembling hands and feet, played on, but the music was fast and disconnected. 

— George Welsey Davis, in a sketch of Butte Montana^ 


The German concertina had arrived in North 
America by the late 1840s, at approximately the 
same time as it did in England, and the Anglo- 
German concertina followed two decades later. 
Although extremely popular in middle- and late- 
nineteenth-century America, German system 
concertinas had all but vanished from popular 
culture there by the early 1900s, and were played 
thereafter mostly by newly arrived Irish and 
English immigrants. In North America its various 
styles of previous use slipped from living 
memory without being recorded, unlike the case 
in Ireland, England, South Africa, and Austraha, 
where small numbers of players continued to 
play the instrument into the early and middle 
twentieth century. For this reason most current 
North American players are unaware of its earlier 
heyday there, when it was played across a broad 
spectrum of working and middle class American 
society— by immigrants, urban dwellers, African- 
Americans, miners. Mormon pioneers, cowboys, 
and by native Aleuts, Inuits, and Metis people, 
among others. A cultural echo of its earlier 
popularity is to be found in the mid-twentieth 
century films of Hollywood, where the 
instrument was often used— although rarely 
actually played— as a prop to signify "old times." 
During the folk revival of the late twentieth 
century the Anglo-German concertina developed 
a large and devoted following in North America, 
mostly among aficionados of Irish, English and 
American traditional music. A significant number 

of new builders of the instrument have emerged, 
along with a variety of workshops and online 
resources for the instrument. 

The vast majority of North American 
"sightings" included here are for the concertina 
in the United States, where this chapter will 
focus. Unfortunately, the instrument's history in 
Canada is more obscure, due principally to the 
fact that there are as yet few digital newspaper 
archives in that country. In the pages that follow, 
Canadian sightings are included as available. 

Arrival and Early Distribution 

It is not precisely known when the first 
German concertina arrived in the United States, 
but by 1846 a first tutor for the German 
concertina had been published by Elias Howe, 
entitled The Concertina Without a Master, the 
same year that another tutor for it had been 
published in England by Carlo Minasi.'' By 1855, 
German concertinas were arriving in San 
Francisco by ship (Figure 1), and by 1858 they 
had found their way to merchants inland, as an 
advertisement for a Montgomery Alabama 
musical instrument dealer demonstrates (Figure 
2). German concertinas were fi-eely available 
during the Civil War years, at least in northern 
states; a Pennsylvania merchant was selling them 
in 1863 (Figure 3). Period newspaper 
advertisements show that Anglo-German 
concertinas had traveled to all parts of the 
country by the late 1860s. Some of the earliest of 


Copy rig hied material 

The Anglo-German Concertina 






ATWm. & CO. 


iMOiCi: or 

Plutinaa, Accordoons cm<i Concortma3» 

Vorstle at veiy low prlM*. JoWcn aud cotmUy ncr* 
cbuU aro Intlteil to exaunlitc Uio iXwX. 

— AUO— 

NEW T O V S » 
U;r Die cu«, Jnit r<'e*1v[nz from cltttpcrs udw nnliHtUnf . 

ATVVlLIt *V C0.» 
&|S4t )<i \Vu1ilo;^n strccL 

Figure 1 . Advertisement for concertinas and other free 
reed instruments, in tlie San Francisco Daily Evening 
Bulletin of December 18 1855. These cargoes were 
arriving by sea. 

Figure 3. Concertinas were readily available during the 
American Civil War. Advertisement for concertinas, in the 
Franklin Repository, Pennsylvania, August 19 1863. 

^■■■^■dltioDn til o«r *l f * * ^ y * 

mmi'tocfc of Music, Ww4Mj mcr- 

T^Rnn and Cl&xk'a PuuioK, frttm A io T}^ Octs-rtEk 
X. Oilbcrt A Co.'a (liaefon) Fiaru», froni S t& TJ^ 

IIaUcI a I>arl*' rianoo, fWitn 6 to 7K OctarM. 

Cj aJe»> lOatUM, frcan 6 to OciAV*-*. 

J, I>aiilibea.'a Funos, frota 8 to 7>f OctaT»3, 

ecaTinrTT'o nanoai, frutn « to TH JX-tarc*. 

MtlooioTW «r all kLo'^lB — anan^ which ATo tha 
cclelmed.l'rlnc«i^ Co.''», "wtuclz tuire been tin!* 
■rcruU/ MkmoirleJged b-o lh« Vnt Jsalrament 
rtaw la use, eiUieir for tlift' VAtlor or Clufoel 

Cotartetn aeLi of Braj'^ Tn^tmrnestii, of Fretich, 
3\iiSlL3a «nd Ameri<=aiiMaaDractiLr«^ with mil Ihe 
Imjirotetocul-i. AniSktrs. vBortmcDt orOcltara, 
Arconleoni, ITlates, Clarionets, Cia«tiinetA,Tnntna 
Koj-t", Vitolje^^, Ooncertlnasj ITtirlc JU6xn, T^Tijbo- 
rinrfl.TDDlng Forka, Vlttli Fipts, Fifes, PrnuM, 
■.1! kinds, Fij^j^coleta, Eoniw, Triajis't'-'** 

elegant ft.*tsDrtxncnt of Golti And SUTer "V^ atcbvSi 
■iDgIa and doabia C9«cd, ef tLo lateat »ty]« and 
mcHit ffp[>rtrTed >rorkinaaeh!p, vith u «xtcTu>ira 
varictjof Jewelry ia can Ije iband la aaj- est^b- 
Ib^bmcnt of the kind la tbo f oathcrn Conatrf. 

Figure 2. Advertisement in the Montgomery Alabama 
newspaper The Daily Confederation, October 1 1, 1858. 
The "concertinas," which are very likely German ones, 
are part of a vast array of imported musical instruments. 


iXL WM. A. PONJ> 4 COi 

547 Broadway, New York, ■ > 

(liUe PIKTH, POXD 4,C0.) . ' . 
Uiwiiractisrers of end Dealers in all kinds or 


■ AND 


?(£blithert and Importer* of Sheet Mtiric, ifuHMl 
IKorfcfi (fir., dc, <£e. 

Mcnrs. W. &. Poxd £ O^aofonilstt anything In Uia 
rtnalcal Hoe at tba shortest I>oa«}6le notice, aad at prioos 
iittt tlefy competillon. , 
^lASu-KUUrjiS (New){xomS225toS800. 
?IANi>-KOHTKS (Second-liand) from $75 to$300, accord- 

iag t<i irizeaad atylo of caao. 
lUCLODKONS of alL the celabratcd makers, at oianabo- 

turern' prlctsa. 
'LlT'i'i) fruffl one to eight k«73, and from COc. to f 123 

,in price. 

JNK3IAN SILVER FIFE 9, In case, $7. 

kiddB of Musical IiiBtrn:aedT5^^^"^^^^ 

iflot ofour Tury best VIOUN S1'BING3, 7Sc ; GXTTtATt 
STIUWGSjSl; BANJO 3T11INQ3, $1; sent by maU 

We jpubltsU one of the larceat and moat VQluablo Cata* 
logncs la Ameidwij and nrcuiilly Btlrtiug to it. Onrfao- 
Jltlca Toe fumlabfnp everything in this particular d»- 
pvtiuent are u::utui£i>. 

V^j BooljiB. (HhflUa OonccttliU liutraotn?, cgona of 
BtQflJpa ritid oiinslfiM nlth & coUeoHonof Obofaa Sfn^o, 75 
Ola, iI!tiAUBbC6no«ft(iiawitlioata Muter, foil lostroceipai 
andinaflTo, 7lct9. Hown'flUflpnutiOppoflrtlM, WDt*. Win* 
Perfect Guide for the Geiniaa OoaceitUiai cootoiataa 
cpaipIot«Jjislfiietf6sii and choico mrulo 76 ots, SMgiriok'fl 
GenaAit CbnccrtlniL, 7S ets, ^ritibo^t il^attVi 

ttiootioiu Abil moslo, by Horaad, TG cti, EMcimfT fuitrtio- 
tortteiijonit and cxiirciAaB, nud mmfd J. JVitivIQ cental 
Mallftd,_P03t niilt!. QLIVJSE MTfJOS d CO,, HoitOB, 
CHAB. it PliiiOH 4 CO^ 711 Bwawa?, New YwlT 
■034 tf . 

Figure 4. Advertisement for tutors for German and English 
concertinas, 1868. From the _BrooA:/vM (New York) Daily Eagle, 
December 14, 1868. 


Copynghled material 

The Concertina in North America 

these include New Orleans, Louisiana (1867), 
San Antonio, Texas (1867), Brooklyn, New York 
in 1868 (Figure 4), Galveston, Texas (1869), 
New Hampshire (1869; "ten-keyed concertinas 
for one dollar" in The Sentinel), New Jersey 
(1870), and Idaho (1870). Penetration extended 
well into the frontier; interior western outposts 
like Idaho were served only by wagon trains in 
1870, as train tracks had not yet reached that far 

Carl F. Zimmermann was an early developer 
of the German concertina in Saxony who created 
his own "Carlsfelder" keyboard design in the late 
1840s (See Chapter 1). He moved to Philadelphia 
in 1864, and produced his own large, square- 
ended three-row 48-button "Chromatic 
Concertinas," winning several prizes for them at 
the Philadelphia International Exhibition of 1876. 
These were likely to have been keyed in his 
patented "Carlsfelder" system. Of more relevance 
to this chapter, he also imported German 
concertinas; Figure 6 shows an assortment of 
eighteen different models in a catalog published 
ca. 1880.' 

When nationwide mail order catalogs 
became popular in the late 1800s, both German 
and English-made Anglo-German instruments 
were carried by merchants like Montgomery 
Ward. A two-row German concertina could be 
had for about five dollars by 1885 (Figure 5). 
English-made Anglos went for a premium of 
about eleven dollars. 

German steamships brought inexpensive 
German-made concertinas to America in huge 
numbers. When one of these steamers, the 
Grasbrook (Figure 7), was wrecked off 
Newfoundland in 1890, it was said that "German 
concertinas appeared in every house in a whole 
countryside.""" Another report stated that: 

When the Grasbrook went ashore in 1890 every 
man on the shore provided himself with a 
German concertina, of which instruments of 
torture she had a large consignment, and to 
secure them packages of much more costly 
freight were thrown overboard. ^ 


Cannot Ije sent by mai! 

(German miike.) 

SS.'jCif! Couoertinas Ma. 
liosfiniy. full sine, 
keys, liono buitoiis 
iiiokcl sound rings, 
{food lone. \\'oi;,'li!, 
'bo.\c-d, (j iioiiJiils. 
Pricf, t.'n(!li. - 13 

S.^.'iCa ( ' o 11 e r I, i n:\. 
rosewood east!, Etifc- 
lisli putl-nrn, moTorco 
bound l.ifillow.s.'iO krys 
utcel nieds .nirt lodd 
ciciir lone, finely lin- 
i-slicd. Weiijlil,, bb.'itid, 
U iioimds. 

Price, each p-i i>r> 

."i ."i 7 0 C ; o n c (,'r U n a s ; 
fine roMi!Wi:oil 
ciiso witli elahonite 
CJiTinun silver inluy- 
insjs, leat her bound 
baJloiVi!, 20 lioys, 
broad roods, lieuvy 
loriejincl V Iliiisbud. 
\Vt. boxed. 8 Ite. 
I'l-ioe, eaoh. , .Sfl 65 


SooTG Antrlo-German imt- 
tcrn.inude oiiiiaho[;iiny. 
aiikeys, leaMvov bound 
bellows, 5 folds, in 
wood ca-se. Each .§9.40 
Weiqflit, bo.xcd, (j 

2.")37K AnRlo-Gemian pat- 
tern, mahogany, .sleel 
rccrtR, U(1 krys," leather 
Ijound btdlowa, 5 folds, 
in w<)<)d case. 

Kacli Sll.'J.-) 

Welglll. boxed.7poiind.i 

Figure 5. Anglo concertinas in t\\& Montgomery Ward 
Catalogue of 1885. No English system concertinas were 
included; the term "English concertinas" refers to English- 
made Anglo-German instruments, probably made by either 
Lachenal or Jones. 



Copyrighted matefial 

The Anglo-German Concertina 




Jll krvs, siii<:l<.' nt'Ied, yijitiiri.!. : gQ 

111 " *' " ]ic\:i!^i']i rill 

^" " ■■ " 1 40 

" ■" " " Willi ):iiu-y lliiWlT (i.iiiiiiitjjs 1 oO 

ooi'rici'B 2 20 


Illiit.-lliOll tHUl. N f^.J^Jj; 

I'f.ll lv.M'n .lu.l, V f..l.lN, ^. s. . 

lical rn^vwcii'ii, .-..n,:,,-,., .liHililf i-.lyi-s inriicrs. 

Rl'lll IVM Miif.l, nipic ^Ti'il.^ns 

Finr«-i..iil l,.itln.|- l,„rK- licvs 

Fiiu- roM^M oi-vii, vr. s. il.-u ln-vi;! vki iuts 

Sriine as 2111, ^. inlj^vsnii,! i.tikt,--, small .-.t,.!! «-irk on to], . . . 
"Orgnn," p. b. ki-ys, tine j;rvvli I.'.iiIict ivilli i;. s. i.iri:iiiii>nts. 

■'Tli-lilolo," tim- Wnvk willi 5,;illi,'r Iwllows 

.■MFih..;::!!!!-, l,oru> keys, iiir, l,:iiii>ui, ^tl^.ng J<l:iU-P, sit.jII 

^votk on I l ip . . r 

"Tn iiiMln,- .M;ilioj.'aiiy, l.liu k w 1 

"Eiiplisl, j.:,lU'l-n," alij;!.. ,^-Liii,:in. I'll i...,K k. vv, iiin-.-y M ioll wol-k, 

iiinljii.saliy u>]., finu loMlliii- 1nll..n-.- ' 

.■^iimc ill ivcioilfii V.1SI' 

2 2fi 
2 7ii 

4 7IP 
:, (II) 
0 '10 

:, V.ri 

4 ■=.() 
6 75 

G on 
8 00 

Figure 6. German concertinas imported by Carl Zimmerman in his 
Philadelphia shop, ca. 1880. There was a wide variety of types and 
qualities. With thanks to Jared Snyder. 

A report by the U.S. Congress on the subject 
of tariffs on imported goods in the year 1 869 had 
only two listings under the heading, Musical 
Instruments: the first was Concertinas, and then 
all other Musical Instruments, underscoring the 
Anglo-German concertina's primacy as one of 
the earliest mass-produced and mass-purchased 
musical instruments.^ A similar report for 1899 
mentions the "large sale of German or Austrian 
concertinas."^ A list of declared imports from 
Germany for 1900, toward the end of the 
concertina's U.S. heyday, listed 94,650 
concertinas and accordions for that fiscal year 
alone.' This figure is similar to the 97,315 

German instruments imported to South 
Africa in 1902 (see Chapter 5). 
Between 1846 and 1900, total 
American imports of German 
concertinas could plausibly have 
reached into the hundreds of thousands 
or more. 

The period from its arrival until 
about 1900 marked the concertina's 
heyday in North America. During this 
time at least twenty-three Anglo tutors 
were published in the United States, 
versus only three for the period from 
1900 to 1950, and only four during the 
period from 1951 to 2007 (examples 
are shown in Fi gures 8, 9, and 10).'" In 
the 1860s and 1870s, German and 
Anglo-German concertinas apparently 
were more popular than accordions and 
English concertinas. For example, the 
U.S. Board of Music Trade's Complete 
Catalog of Sheet Music and Musical 
Works of 1870 listed eleven tutors for 
the German concertina versus only 
three for the English concertina and six 
for the accordion." Figure 4 shows an 
advertisement from an 1868 New York 
City music merchant that lists four 
German tutors for sale to only one for 
the English concertina. Reproduced 
— many times over a span of several 

months, this ad indicates that the 
primary musical instrument in the 
shop's inventory was the German concertina. 
German and Anglo-German concertinas 
have retained their large edge in popularity over 
the English-system instrument in the U.S. to the 
present day (see Chapter 1), but their early lead 
over the accordion was not to last. By 1880 or so, 
entries for free-reed instruments in mail order 
catalogues such as Montgomery Ward show that 
accordions had overtaken the Anglo-German 
concertina in overall sales and popularity, 
although the Anglo-German and German 
concertinas still remained popular with the 
general public until the early decades of the 
twentieth century (see discussion below). 


Copynghled material 

The Concertina in North America 

Figure 7. SS Grasbrook, a German 
steamship, in drydock in Newfoundland, 
1 885. It was wrecked off of Newfoundland 
in 1 890, and local people quickly stripped 
the wreck of hundreds of German 
concertinas. Memorial Library, University 
of Newfoundland. 

Figure 9. German concertina tutor by Elias 
Howe, Boston, 1879. With thanks to 
Randall Merris. 



Wilh reiy En; srii Siapio ItiJia and a. lai^e caUKtioD of 

^aiiu$, }?Dlk!is, fillips, i|(trt[ps snib ^iiiqkdp|is. 

Contra and Fancy Dances, 
Wilh qJ] the rinrjnrlnrj niarkotl lo each |>lc<». ^. 

TmSiuA lol icM !i<r £UU HOVE, 

fci" (lA-W^WMII *THIIIfT. 

Figure 10. Concertina tutor by Septimus Winner, 
1883. With thanks to Randall Merris. 

The Anglo-German Concertina 

German versus English concertinas: music on 
the social ladder 

The English-system concertina arrived 

almost simultaneously with the Anglo, and its 
first documented public appearance may have 
been at a concert at Niblo's Saloon in New York 
on December 9, 1840, where the "Infant 
Minstrels! The Masters Hughes" performed 
classical and semi-classical pieces on harp, violin 
and concertina. Master David Hughes, later to 
become a prolific inventor, performed one of 
Moore's Melodies on the English concertina.'^ 
By 1851 regular performances of classical and 
semi-classical music were given in New York by 
Alfred B. Sedgwick (1821-1878), Robert 
Thompson Spice (b. 1846) and by others, in 
poUte soirees and balls. Sedgwick wrote several 
classically oriented tutors for the English-system 
instrument, the first of which was published in 

There is no instrument as yet invented that 
presents so many advantages to the Amateur, as 
the Concertina . . . one of those destined to 
continue alike popular in the Concert or 
Drawing room. . . . To ladies it is particularly 
recommended for its extreme elegance and 
portability, as also on account of its being the 
only wind instrument at their command''* 

Sedgwick disdained the more common 
German concertina, however, writing that "the 
English concertina is ... far superior ... to that 
known as the German concertina, which as 
compared to the former, can only rank as a mere 
toy."'^ Toy or not, the Anglo was arriving in vast 
quantities from German factories, far outstripping 
the numbers of imported handmade English- 
system concertinas. In a bow to this mass popular 
audience, Sedgwick also published instruction 
manuals for the German Concertina, beginning in 
1865 (Figure 8). In his introductory comments, 
Sedgwick commented that, "although inferior in 
all respects to the English concertina ... it is 
capable of producing ... a much better class of 
music than has been generally supposed."'^ 

Thus began a social divide between users of 
these two instruments that persisted throughout 
the nineteenth century in the United States. 
Whereas the English system was favored in the 
parlors of well-to-do Americans, the much less 
expensive German concertina and later the 
Anglo-German concertina were owned by 
working- and middle-class folk, were played in 
dance halls and in the street, and were subject to 
the condescension of the social eUte. American 
newspaper accounts of the day were quick to 
praise appearances by Sedgwick and other 
classically oriented English-system players, but 
tended to be very critical of the "rougher" 
popular music that was typically played on 
Anglo-German concertinas in dance halls, 
minstrel shows, and tent revivals, which included 
popular songs, sacred hymns, and what would 
today be termed "traditional" dance music. In an 
1877 review of a recently concluded free, open- 
air classical music concert in New York City 
attended by large numbers of the general public, 
it was reported that: 

The result of this [free concert] . . . has been to 
simulate a taste for good music among many of 
the lower classes who attended . . . and to make 
them abhor those tunes which are nightly heard 
on the concertina." 

This echoed the sentiment of an English 
observer who wrote: 

The German concertina is admittedly an inferior 
instrument. Still, we must not sneer at the thing. I 
believe it does give a measure of enjoyment to 
some of our hard working people; it is better for 
them to listen or to dance to a German 
concertina than to hear no music at all. In time 
they will learn to like something better. 

In another day and time, it is possible that 
the social distinction between users of the 
EngUsh concertina and the Anglo would not 
develop in such a strong and clear-cut manner. In 
mid-nineteenth-century New York City, 
however, the instruments arrived at a time of 
increasingly acrimonious dispute between those 


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The Concertina in North America 

Americans with aristocratic sentiments and the 
rapidly growing working and immigrant masses. 
Class warfare in the New York entertainment 
world erupted in 1849 in the Astor Place Riots, 
where the petty squabbles between two 
Shakespearean actors (one an aristocratic 
Englishman, the other a Bowery-based American 
with a broad popular following) incited street 
riots in which over thirty persons died. It has 
been said that "after the Astor Place Riot of 1849, 
entertainment in New York City was divided 
along class lines: opera was chiefly for the upper 
middle and upper classes, minstrel 
shows and melodramas for the 
middle class, variety shows in 
concert saloons for men of the 
working class and the slumming 
middle class. "'^ It was into this 
simmering cauldron that the two 
relatively new instruments, 
English and Anglo-German, 
arrived, and they soon found their 
respective places on the social 

Figure 1 1 . Tintype photograph of a man holding a hexagonal, two-row 
German concertina, ca. 1870. With thanks to Jared Snyder. 


The Anglo-German Concertina 

An Instrument with Mass Appeal 
Loved and despised in public spaces 

Anecdotal evidence underscores the 
popularity of the German concertina with 
America's urban working class. Much comment 
in the newspapers was negative, as was this piece 
from the Connecticut Constitution in 1869, which 
complained of urban street noise: 

No one interferes to stop any account of noise in 

the night and early morning. . . . At any hour of 
the night a fool in love with a concertina may 
disturb the whole neighborhood with noises he 
pleases to think music. 

A poUce justice in Jersey City, commenting 
on "a complaint of disturbing the peace, by the 
use of a so-caUed musical instrument at a late 
hour at night," pronounced this eminently 
humane judicial opinion: "Any man who will 
play a concertina on a stoop at 1 1 o'clock at night 
deserves the severest punishment the law allows. 
I think he ought to be sent to the State prison for 
five years."^' Not all references to open-air 
concertina playing were negative, by any means, 
as this description from a tum-of-the century 
Biloxi, Mississippi, newspaper indicates: 

And in the still night air, from the stifling room of 
the tenement, floats the sound of the concertina, 
now clear and distinct, resolving itself into the 
familiar strain: "There 's No Place Like 
Home. "^^ 

The frequency of appearance of concertinas 
in such descriptions indicates that they were 
commonplace. In a tightly packed urban 
environment, they had the same effect on those 
requiring peace and quiet that a noisy boom-box 
playing hip-hop music on a bus would today, as 
the following bit of doggerel from an 1894 New 
York City newspaper demonstrates: 


The New Angel 

Now John was young and gay and free 
And mainly proper in demeanor. 
But lackaday, one fault had he — 
He would play on the concertina. 

By day he played, and eke by night; 

Played sometimes slow and sometimes faster, 

He played by ear and played by sight, 
And at his music was a master. 

The neighbors near his dwelling place 
Became a-weary of his playing. 
And each, with anger in his face 
Declared that John was ripe for slaying. 

But others sought the aid of law 
And served on John the law's subpoena. 
And while he pondered it with awe. 
Stole in and took the concertina. 

He sought it high, he sought it low. 
And of each friend in vain inquired. 

And then at last, o'erwhelmed with woe. 
Took to his bed and there expired. 

He soared aloft in heavenly flight. 
With spirits calmer and serener. 
And asked St. Peter if he might 
Exchange his harp for concertina.^^ 

Life often imitates art, as in this real-life 
account from an 1897 newspaper: "In Cleveland, 
someone broke into a house and stole a 
concertina and nothing else. It is thought some 
weary neighbor was the burglar."^ 

As in London, many impoverished urban 
concertina players used their instruments to make 
their livelihoods, including some children. In 
1883 New York, 

[The] president of the Society for the Prevention 
of Cruelty to Children said that in the Globe 
Museum a girl only 10 years old was employed to 
play the concertina. . . . The manager of the 
Globe Museum said that on Sept. 15, as "an 
attraction, " he hired several young women, 
dressed them in the latest style, and called them 
"lady dudes. " Nothing improper was allowed 
within the museum. The little girl who played the 

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The Concertina in North America 

concertina was a daughter of the blind piano 
player, and her weekly pay was of great help to 

An English visitor traveling on a night train 
to Niagara Falls in 1887 was none too pleased 
with minstrel-like musicians on that train: 

It was my first experience of the American 
sleeping-car. I have not been able to grasp the 
much-vaunted superiority of the American 
railway system. . . . A lady travelling alone at 
night has naturally a greater sense of security in 
the long open American cars and in the company 
of a conductor or two, and some dozen or so of 
fellow -passengers; but I was travelling with my 
husband; and on this occasion, after having kept 
late hours for several previous nights, I would 
gladly have been allowed to slumber in peace. At 
one end of the car, however, just at the back of 
my compartment, a party of musically-inclined 
gentlemen held jubilee with a banjo and a 
concertina, and sang n — r melodies till past 
midnight, varying the entertainment with 
anecdotes that might have been amusing if my 
nerves, strained to unnatural alertness, had not 
insisted upon following each nasal inflexion and 
chronicling each pointless joke on the tablets of 
my memory with exasperating exactitude. They 
seemed, judging from their conversation, to be 
journalists, or to have affinities with the craft. 
One of them narrated his experiences as a 
Western editor, and wound up with the remark 
that "it was pistols in the morning and bowie- 
knives in the evening. " 

In San Francisco, the Western Union 
telegraph company was having problems with its 
messenger boys. During sometimes lengthy idle 
periods as they waited for messages to deliver, 
the boys were getting sluggish, which was 
hurting delivery times. Local management sprang 
into action: 

[They] devised an unfailing method of stirring 
the sluggish pulse and feet of the company 's 
juvenile employees. An expert concertina player 
has been engaged to furnish choice selections 

throughout the day to beguile the tedium of the 
idle intervals . . . Now, therefore, when the nature 
of a message calls for expeditious delivery the 
gentleman in charge has no more to do than to 
hand it over to the most musically inclined 
member of the staff in attendance. . . . In fact the 
boys are so fearful of missing any portion of the 
programme that they know no happiness outside 
the office and never rest until their respective 
missions are ftlled.^^ 

In an investigation following an 1891 
collision between two brick barges in a New 
York City river in which twenty persons 
drowned, bargeman W.C. Curran allowed that 
"we were playing a concertina in the cabin at the 
time of the accident."^^ 

The concertina often appeared within the 
crime pages, either as a stolen instrument ranking 
high on the list of treasures taken from an 
apartment, or as connected somehow with a 
domestic crime. A typical account from 1889 
involved a burglary of a household where the 
thief removed "a boys overcoat, a concertina, an 
accordion, a pair of opera glasses and some small 
articles."^^ In the days before recorded music, 
electronic stereos, televisions, and mass- 
produced household appliances, items like 
concertinas and accordions were prized items 
indeed for working- class families — such 
instruments provided the day-to-day music that 
people heard most. 

In an 1859 investigation of wife abuse, a 
male friend of the accused spoke up for his 
friend, saying, "as soon as they got in the 'ouse, 
Mrs. Boyce threw a concertina at his 'ed, and 
locked the door and 'oUered murder."^" In a 
similar domestic incident, a PoUsh-bom 
defendant was "deserting his wife, but before 
taking his departure he destroyed all the furniture 
he could not conveniently remove [by throwing it 
out the tenement window], beat his wife, and sat 
down amid the wreck and played his concertina" 
until an arriving officer arrested him.^^ In 
Hazleton Pennsylvania, 1895, "Joseph 
Washkovitch died at the hospital from a broken 
skull. Last Friday he played the concertina at a 
Hungarian dance, and because his music was 


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The Anglo-German Concertina 

unsatisfactory, John Lapka struck him in the head 
with a beer bottle."^' 

Figure 1 2. Boy playing the concertina for a dancing girl 
in a New York restaurant. From the Atlanta 
Constitution, March 1, 1896. 

Social dancing 

German and Anglo-German concertinas 
were very well served by numerous tutors of the 
period, and these tutors contain much 
information about what sort of music was played 
on the instruments." Figure 9 shows a cover for 
an 1879 tutor by Elias Howe. The music 
contained in Howe's German Concertina tutors 
contained what would today be called 
"traditional" music: "The Very Latest and Best 
Songs, Polkas, Galops, Quicksteps, 8lc"^^, as 
well as waltzes, marches, and "Contra and Fancy 
Dances.""^"^ Howe marketed to the masses, and 
although his extensive catalog of instruction 
manuals catered to a wide variety of instruments 
(including manuals for brass instruments, violin, 
German Accordion, French Accordion, flute, 
flageolet, clarinet, piano, and guitar), he did not 
focus on classical music, and did not carry tutors 
for the English-system concertina.^'' 


This focus on dance music was a by-product 
of the ballroom dance fashions that had by this 
time also swept through England, Ireland, 
Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa, as 
preceding chapters have discussed. The 
concertina was often just the instrument for small 
house — and house-top — dances, as this sighting 
from New York City in 1886 indicates: 

7726 roofs of New York are very interesting. . . . 
From the Brooklyn bridge I have seen that 
topmost stratum of the city fairly alive with 
people on a fine autumn evening. On one roof 
were to be seen some shop girls waltzing to the 
music of a concertina in the hands of a young 
man seated on the raised wall-top between that 
house and the next.'' 

In San Francisco, a schottische of 1878 was 
published as She Plays the Concertina^^ In 
Brooklyn, in 1903, an inspector on the Brooklyn 
police force went undercover to investigate 
complaints of a noisy bar on Hamilton Avenue. 
Posing as an upstate farmer, he mentioned to the 
bartender and several drinkers at the bar that he 
was looking for a "good time:" 

Then the fun began. All hands were called on 
deck and a good old-fashioned breakdown kept 
men and women moving and the bartenders busy. 
The Inspector was thought to be the right sort. 
Then there was some more concertina playing 
and dancing in pairs. 
"Let 's have another reel, " cried someone. 
This time the Inspector did not enter into the 
spirit of the occasion. He blew his whistle and the 
plain clothes men on the outside came inside. 
"Well, who 'd a thought it, " said the concertina 
player when they took his name and age at the 
Hamilton Avenue station half an hour later. 

Beyond a few sightings like these, however, 
there are relatively few documented occurrences 
in eastern American cities or towns of the sort of 
house dances that were nearly ubiquitous in 
Australia or New Zealand at this time. Ballroom- 
style dancing existed, of course, as on the New 
York bound City of Brussels in an 1880 passage, 

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The Concertina in North America 

where "stewards furnished music on a concertina 
and banjo suitable for square and round dances 
. . . . The evening's festivities closed at 10 
o'clock with the Virginia reel.""*" Dances where 
the concertina is reported to have been used are 
most frequent in the West, where Mormon 
pioneers brought German and Anglo-German 
concertinas with them to their new home in Utah 
(see below). It may be that the concertina only 
excelled at such activity in the absence of pianos 
and string orchestras, with which most eastern 
American cities were well supplied by the late 
nineteenth century. 

Figure 13. Musician with violin and two-row 
German Concertina. From an early 
stereoscopic photograph, ca. 1860s. 

Use in the Civil War 

An early photo (Figure 13) shows a 
musician with two prized instruments: a fiddle 
and a German concertina. While most musicians 
today would consider his mass-produced, two- 
row German concertina to be an inferior 
instrument compared to a modern, more finely- 
made Anglo-German concertina or to a good 
violin, the German-made instrument was a 
novelty in its early years and is here exhibited 
with considerable pride of ownership. German 
concertinas were known and played by soldiers 
in the Civil War, although not nearly as often as 
were various types of flutes, brass, and stringed 
instalments. Figure 14 shows one, in a museum 
at the Gettysburg National Battlefield in 

Pennsylvania. That instrument is very similar to 
another in a period tintype photo (Figure 15), 
where a black youth in military garb holds an 
early square-ended German concertina. The 
frame with its Union sentiment (not shown) 
establishes its Civil War vintage.'*' 

A Union spy named William Passmore 
wrote in 1862 of an event at the docks of 
Liverpool in neutral England when the 
Confederate raider Alabama was being re- 
supplied. He reported that he "met the seamen 
. . . coming down Canning Street from the ship, 
playing 'Dixie's Land' on a fife, concertina, and 
cornopeon [cornet], and they all took the . . . 
Woodside [ferry] boat for Liverpool. They still 
kept playing 'Dixie's Land' on the ferry boat."'*' 

After the Civil War, General Grant visited 
Cleveland Ohio in 1868, while campaigning for 
the Presidency. Thousands of veterans showed up 
to hear their former leader: 

Among the many notable incidents was one that 
occurred at one of the stands, when a man named 
James Alsoeth, of Newberry, Gesuga county, 
mounted the stand and sang a number of Grant 
songs, accompanying the singing with a 
concertina. His grotesque appearance, bass 
voice, and vehement gesticulations caused a 
great deal of merriment^" 

Figure 14. A Civil War-era concertina, in the museum at the 
Gettysburg National Battlefield, Pennsylvania. It is a two-row 
square-ended instrument of German manufacture, and closely 
similar to that held by the black youth in Figure 15. 


The Anglo-German Concertina 

Figure 15. Black youth with early square-ended German concertina, ca. 1864. The 
original frame of this tintype carries the inscription. The Union Now and Forever. 
With thanks to Steve Uhrik and 


Copyrighted malBfi^l 

The Concertina in North America 

Figure 16. The Immigrant Train: Away, 
Away to the Mountain Dell ( 1 897), by 
George Martin Ottinger (1833-1917); 
Ottinger was depicting a wagon train of 
the sort that he himself used in 
traveling to Utah in 1861. A group of 
musicians, center right, sing and play 
the concertina and flute. Reproduced by 
permission of the Springville Museum 
of Art, Springville Utah. 


The Anglo-German Concertina 

The concertina on the Mormon wagon trains 

From 1846 to 1869, more than seventy 
thousand Mormon pioneers made the trek west 
from Nauvoo, Illinois, to Great Salt Lake, Utah, 
using oxen-drawn covered wagons and 
manpowered pushcarts. Many were immigrants 
from England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland, and 
some of them brought their concertinas with 
them, along with fiddles, wooden flutes, and 
melodeons, as they emigrated by sea and then 
overland.'*'* Fanny Fry Simons, who immigrated 
in 1859, sailed aboard the William Tapscott and 
recalled that there was "dancing and music every 
evening, with a very few exceptions.""*'^ John 
McAllister, who was a Latter-day Saint 
passenger aboard the Manchester in 1862, 
recorded: "saints on deck dancing, singing, 
knitting, sewing, etc. Violins and concertinas in 
full blast."'*'' The instrument was already popular 
in the U.S. at the time of the Mormon migration, 
and native-bom American converts would have 
purchased theirs locally. 

A nineteenth-century painting by George 
Martin Ottinger (1833-1917) entitled Immigrant 
Train: Away, Away to the Mountain Dell (Figure 
16) depicts a group of singers and musicians 
performing a hymn next to a wagon train as it 
passes through the desert near present-day 
Chimney Rock, Wyoming. A detailed image of 
part of the painting (Figure 17) shows a flute 
player and a German concertina player among the 
singers. Ottinger was a Salt Lake City artist who 
himself migrated to Utah with his mother in an 
immigrant wagon train in 1861. Based on the 
artist's personal experience, this painting is one 
of a series of his works that depict the Mormon 
migration. Of these migrating groups of 
Mormons, it was said that "in most groups there 
was nearly always one person who played the 
concertina, harmonica, or violin, and so they 
often had accompaniment for group singing and 

A Mormon wagon train had passed through 
Wyoming and reached Echo Canyon, Utah, in 
May 1 867. They were only a few days away from 
their goal of reaching Salt Lake City. One 


traveler's journal paints a written picture 
strikingly close to that of Ottinger' s work: 

Thus far we have travelled, driving through 
snow, mud, and angry streams, every rivulet 
being changed into a torrent. Up Emigration 
canyon we had in many places to make new 
roads. We had the misfortune to upset one 
wagon. . . . 

When our company was completed we organized 
ourselves and unanimously elected brother Karl 
G. Maeser as chaplain. We organized our 
general prayer meetings . . . Several of the 
brethren are good singers and play the 
concertina, regaling us with sweet strains which 
sometimes carry us back to our lovely homes. 

The oldest living son of early Mormon 
president Heber Kimball recounted in his old age 
that danceable tunes were often in short supply in 
the early days of the migration, and "related of 
having danced [using] sacred music. The 

Figure 17. Detail, The Immigrant Train: Away, Away to the 
Mountain Dell (1897), by George Martin Ottinger, showing 
a group of singers and musicians that includes a concertina 

Copyrighled material 

The Concertina in North America 

accompanist on a concertina knew only two 
tunes, 'Oh My Father' [which was] used for 
quadrilles, and for waltzes, 'Come, Come Ye 

John Meakin (b. 1851) crossed into Utah in 
a wagon train as a boy in 1869, and later in life 
he looked back on the experience: 

At eve, when the circle camp had been formed we 
boys had to hustle for buffalo chips for the camp 
fires. . . . After the evening meal, if not too late, 
or the travelers not too tired, talk about your 
vaudeville stunts. I tell you they are not in it 
when compared with a pioneer show on an alkali 
plain stage, the curtain being the blue sky, pinned 
back by the stars. The entertainment would 
consist of sentiment, song, story, and music, with 
an all-star cast. After singing, then would come 
one of daring, sensational acts, by Indians, 
piercing an English sixpence with an arrow shot 
from a bow one hundred feet away. This and 
similar wonderful acts by friendly savages. 

Next would come the English boy with his 
concertina, with its cat calls and drawn-out 
tunes, with waving expressions of lamentations 
by swinging the instrument in mid air and cutting 
up affected didos. Then would come the 

George Ellis (1845-1912) was bom in 
Sussex, England, and came to Utah with a 
Mormon wagon train in 1867. Of him it was said 
that "he loved music, loved to laugh and was a 
tease. He played the concertina so well that when 
he played 'Annie Laurie,' people cried."'^' 

As most of the Mormons were people of 
modest means, German and Anglo-German 
instruments would have been the most common 
(such as the one depicted in Figure 17), although 
English system instruments were also played.'^' In 
1862, a concert at the then-new Mormon 
Tabernacle in Salt Lake City boasted two 
hundred vocal and instrumental performers in a 
popular concert that included "Anthems, 
Quartettes, Trios, Duets, Songs, Readings, 
Pianoforte, Harmonium, and Concertina Solos." 
Like the performers, all of the musical 

instruments mentioned made their way west by 
covered wagon — the transcontinental railroad did 
not arrive there until 1869. 

Stories of the Wild West, some true 

Some of these Utah pioneers were also 
active in the Indian Wars, and at a reunion in 
1907 for aged veterans of those wars one W.D. 
Major "had the honor of leading on his celebrated 
concertina. The people there were so kind that 
they preferred not to take their money back 
which they paid him for his services."^^ 
Evidently, advancing age commanded more 
respect, because at a similar gathering of veterans 
of the Indian Wars four years later "the number 
that received the most applause and an encore 
was a selection on the concertina played by the 
old veteran, W.D. Major."'^'* 

John Jarvie, a Scotsman, settled in sparsely 
populated Browns, Park Utah, in 1880 (Figure 
18). He operated the general store and trading 
post and was "much in demand at social 
functions because of his musical talents on the 
organ and concertina." He was acquainted with 

Figure 1 8. John Jarvie, a pioneer trading post owner and 
concertina player of Brown's Park Utah. Jarvis was well 
known to Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Used by 
permission, Uintah County Library Regional History Center, 
all rights reserved. 


The Anglo-German Concertina 

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid of the Wild 
Bunch as well as several other outlaws who 
frequented his trading post, and met his death in 
1909 when he was robbed and murdered in his 
store. His killers placed his body in a boat and 
pushed it out into the Green River.^^ 

Owen Wister, author of the western classic, 
The Virginian, wrote in 1894 of a fictional fracas 
at a tavern in Arizona in a scene reminiscent of 
some of the escapades of Australia's 
"bushrangers" (Chapter 7). A tenderfoot had 
been made a fool of by some wizened old-timers, 
and was now being made to dance with a pistol 
fired towards his rapidly stepping feet: 

The boy was taking his first dose of Arizona. By 
no means everyone was looking at his jig. They 
had seen tenderfeet so often. There was a 
Mexican game of cards; there was the 
concertina; and over in the corner sat Specimen 
Jones, with his back to the company, singing to 
himself. Nothing had been said or done that 
entertained him in the least. . . . 

"Higher! Skip higher, you elegant calf, " 
remarked the old gentleman to the tenderfoot. 

"High-yer! " and he placidly fired a fourth shot 
that scraped the boy's foot at the ankle . . . The 
boy was cutting pigeon 's wings, the concertina 
played "Matamoros. " Jones continued his lyric, 
when the two Mexicans leaped at each other, and 
the concertina stopped with a quack.^'' 

Wister used the concertina in several of his 
western stories. In his novel of 1900, The 
Jimmyjohn Boss, an old man named Uncle Pasco 
has had his stagecoach commandeered by a man 
with a gun who rode next to him on the stage: 

"Uncle, you 're not making time, " said Drake 
after a few miles. "I'll thank you for the reins. 
Open your bandanna and get your concertina. 
Jerk the bellows for us. " 

"That I'll not! " screamed Uncle Pasco. 

"It 's music or walk home, " said the boy. "Take 
your choice. " 

Uncle Pasco took his choice, opening with the 
melody of "The Last Rose of Summer. " The 


sleigh whirled up the Owyhee by the winter 
willows, and the levels, and the meadow pools, 
bright frozen under the blue sky. Late in this day 
the amazed Brock by his corrals at Harper 's 
beheld arrive his favorite, his boy superintendent, 
driving in with the schoolmaster staring through 
his glasses, and Uncle Pasco throwing out active 
strains upon his concertina. The old man had 
been bidden to bellows away for his neck.^^ 

In the mining camps 

The concertina was a fixture of early mining 
camps in America, just as it was in the gold 
camps of Australia and New Zealand. In the gold 
and silver district of Central City, Colorado, in 

A crowd collected at the curiosity shop presided 
over by Sam A. Buell last evening, attracted by 
the music drawn from a very fine concertina, 
handled by one who as near as we could guess, 
was a Cornish miner. He appeared to know the 
instrument thoroughly, and was certainly very 
entertaining to his numerous audience. 

In the Klondike gold rush of the 1890s, 
while a man and woman were walking through 
the mining camp one evening: 

An old digger was sitting in front of his tent 
playing the concertina to some of his pards who 
lay at their ease on the ground a short distance 
away. It was not a waltz tune he was playing, but 
that didn 't matter much. Winifred seized me by 
the arms and began to turn me about. The 
musician saw what we were after, and politely 
changed his tune at once to Sweet Marie, which, 
with Two Little Girls in Blue and Rosey-Posey, 
seemed to be great favourites at the dancing- 

In the struggling mining camp of Goldfield, 
Arizona, in 1898, 

The melodies played by Uncle Tom, the "Last 

Minstrel of Goldfield, " still enliven the camp. Let 
mines close, or happen what will, in Uncle Billy 's 

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The Concertina in North America 

concertina there is not a note of sadness — it 
prophesizes no evil, when a waltz or a polka is 
touched, and one is brought under its gentle but 
buoyant influence, one is reminded of the noted 
musician, "Who played with such skill that 
whoever heard him could never keep still. "^^ 

In the Death Valley "hell-camp" of 
Panamint — the home of a gold discovery in 
1859 — a restaurant keeper was preparing for a 
celebration on Washington's birthday: 

[TJables, stove, and counter had been removed, a 
platform set up, many sandwiches prepared, and 
now the musicians — harp, flutina, concertina 
(played by Editor Harris) and Professor Martin 's 
fiddle — were tuning up. If there were only more 
ladies in camp! Miss Donoghue for the dozenth 
time counted over all the genteel prunellas which 
were available for partnering the miners ' heavy 
stogies on her tallow -waxed floor. Just sixteen 
pairs. Down-canyon, of course, there were other 
"ladies. " But Miss Donoghue 's face went bleak 
at the thought.^' 

El the mining district of Cobalt, Ontario, 
Canada, Irishman and poet Dr. William Henry 
Drummond (1854-1907) had financial interest in 
a mine: 

Part of his duty recently was to engage a number 

of workmen. In doing so he astonished everybody 
by a radical departure from old time methods. 
After asking some more or less perfunctory 
questions regarding a candidate 's ability as a 
miner, he inquired, "Can you play the fiddle or 
concertina? Do you dance or sing? " It was 
noticed that unless the man could give the 
affirmative reply to at least two of these questions 
he stood small chance of getting work. The 
wisdom of Dr. Drummond 's course became 
apparent when it developed that nearly all the 
men he engaged were good humored fellows 
whose happy spirits kept the mining camp in 



George Davis wrote a series of vignettes 
about life in the mining camp of Butte Montana, 

including this description of a dance where a 
surfeit of whiskey caused problems for the 
concertina player: 

[DJuring the afternoon of the opening day. in all 
directions over the range could be seen little 
coils of dust rising from trails. It was made by the 
hoofs of horses hurrying along carrying guests to 
the dance. Those who had reached there early 
had arranged a stage for the orchestra and bar, 
by placing two dry-goods boxes close together, 
and when the hour came for the festivities to 
begin, the young man with the concertina on his 
lap sat on one box and the keg of whiskey on the 
other. Mother and daughter both joined in the 
dancing, and all went well for several hours. 
Between dances the guests would help themselves 
to liquid refreshments and then drop a silver 
piece in a tin cup that stood close by. About three 
o 'clock in the morning trouble began, and the 
jingling of spurs that kept tune with the 
concertina became louder and faster and then a 
few shots were fired through the ceiling; then a 
jealous fight over the daughter, then the mother, 
and then more drinks, and some became drowsy, 
while others seemed to take pleasure in shooting 
through walls and ceiling. The mother and 
daughter escaped and went to their building. The 
young man, with trembling hands and feet, 
played on, but the music was fast and 

The minstrels and the concertina 

Anglo concertinas were also played in 
minstrel shows, the fore-runners to vaudeville 
and the music haUs. As we have seen in previous 
chapters, the minstrels were a globally popular 
export from America in the late nineteenth and 
early twentieth centuries. The musical legacy of 
their jaunty dance tunes and instruments 
(especially the banjo, bones, and concertina) 
reverberate to this day in England, Australia, 
New Zealand, Ireland, and South Africa. Figure 
19 shows one unnamed group, whose 
instrumentation consisted of tambourine, German 
concertina, bones, and banjo. John F. Fields (b. 
1853) and William F. Hoey performed together 


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The Anglo-German Concertina 

appearance included musicians Baker 
and Tuttle on banjo, guitar, and 


Figure 19. Blackface minstrel troupe, ca. 1870-1880. A musician with a 
German concertina stands second from the left. Location not known. 

as blackface musicians; Fields is shown playing 
an Anglo-German concertina in an 1875 
photograph (Figure 20). After a performance at 
the Park Theatre in New York City in 1877, it 
was reported that "the two . . . performers 
manage to sustain an air upon half a dozen 
different instruments during the execution of 
some difficult salutatory feats, all of which 
convinces the gallery that a great deal of 
muscular energy is needed for the perfect 
illustration of high art."' Fields' previous partner 
was Fred Sharpley, one of three brothers who 
formed a minstrel act in the early 1870s. Another 
of the brothers, James Sharpley (d. 1902), "was 
an exceptionally clever performer on the 

An 1875 minstrel entertainment in New 
Orleans included an appearance by John D. 
Kelley, of whom it was said that, in addition to 
playing barnyard sounds on the violin, he "played 
Home, Sweet Home on the banjo and the 
concertina at the same time, playing the air with 
the concertina and accompanying it with the 
banjo, which is very difficult."^ In 1892, the 
Primrose and West minstrels included 
performances in Omaha by "Musical" Dale, who 
"showed what he could do with hand bells, 
concertina, banjo, and a few strings of sleigh 
bells."" A minstrel act in an 1897 North Dakota 

' Vaudeville and music hall 

Late in the nineteenth century and 
extending into the twentieth century, 
vaudeville replaced the minstrel shows 
as entertainment moguls sought to 
develop a wider, multi-class audience; 
in effect healing the class divisions in 
the American entertainment world that 
resulted from the Astor Place riots that 
had erupted a half century earlier. In 
vaudeville, the concertinas of choice 
became the English and duet systems, 
with their greatest stars being the 
German-dialect comedians Dutch Daly 
and Joseph Cawthorne. Dutch Daly sometimes 
used a miniature Anglo concertina in his act.^ 

Figure 20. William F. Hoey and John F. Fields, blackface 
minstrels and music hall performers, 1875. The concertina 
player is John Fields. From Edward Le Roy Rice, Monarchs 
of Minstrelsy, 1911. 


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Figure 21. Poster for Frank Parish and Peru, 
"world-famous jumping marvels and concertina 
dancers" appearing in the Bronx, N.Y vaudeville 

Although a minority in this type of venue, 
Anglo-German concertinas were doubtlessly used 
in other vaudeville and music hall acts as well. 
For example, Wheatstone records show that a set 
of three unusual, twelve -sided Wheatstone 
Edeophone Anglos was built in 1934 for a team 
of concertina-playing acrobats in Cincinnatti.^" 
Figure 21 shows performers "Frank Parish & 
Peru: world famous jumping marvels and 
concertina dancers," who played in the New 
York vaudeville circuit. Figure 22 shows a group 
of three early-twentieth-century street musicians; 
although the provenance of the photo is not 
clearly known, the word "Apartments" in the sign 
in the window suggests an American setting — the 
term "Flats" would be the common usage in 
Britain. The cutaway jackets worn by the 
African-American banjoist and guitarist indicate 
that these two belonged to a professional group. 
The different dress of the Anglo concertina 

player (and the spontaneous delight on the faces 
of the passersby) may indicate that he was only 
jamming with them in the street, or the three may 
have together constituted a variety show or 
vaudeville "act."^' 

The concertina was rarely seen on 
Broadway, but made its appearance there in 
considerable numbers in the 1903 New York 
musical comedy. The Rogers Brothers in London, 
which ran for sixty-four shows at the 
Knickerbocker Theatre: 


How the Girls of the Rogers Brothers Company 
Mastered These Rather Difficult Instruments. 

When it was decided to introduce a novelty, 
concertinas and tin whistles, into the Coster's 
'Oliday number in "The Rogers Brothers in 
London, " a doubt was expressed as to whether 
the girls would ever be able to play the dance 
music on these instruments. An experiment was 
therefore necessary, and several of the brightest 
girls were furnished with concertinas and 
whistles and instructed in playing them. They 
caught the idea quickly and soon were able to 
play popular airs and dances in quite a skillful 
manner. These girls were in turn assigned as 
instructors of an awkward squad, very much in 
the manner that new recruits for the army are 
instructed. The instructors were told to visit the 
girls in their rooms and teach them how to play 
the instruments, so that no time would be lost 
during the regular rehearsals. Many of the girls 
were rooming near each other on Thirty-ninth 
street. New York, in the big apartment blocks, 
and meetings were arranged in the various 
rooms on different evenings. Imagine the result. 
The girls would start in on their lessons about 8 
o 'clock and keep it up for about two hours. All 
sorts of combinations of discordant sounds issued 
from the rooms and through the corridors of the 

There were others, however, in the apartments 
who were not musically inclined, and these 


The Anglo-German Concertina 

people were almost driven crazy by the whining 
of the concertinas and the shrieks of the whistles. 
The noise became unbearable 
after a couple of lessons and the girls were 
politely told to find other quarters or stop 
practice. Messrs. Klaw & Erlanger then provided 
a room for them, and the girls themselves almost 
lost love for music before they were able to play 
with anything hke harmony. 

This number — in "The Rogers Brothers in 
London " is one of the novelties of the 
entertainment, and never fails to secure several 
curtain ' calls. A number of the girls are quite 
expert on the whistle and 
concertina. One of them is 
called "The Cawthorne Girl" 
because she is fast becoming 
as skillfiil as Joe Cawthorne, 
who is considered, the master 
of the concertina. '^^ 


The concertina was often 
scorned by neighbors of urban 
concertina players, which made 
for numerous humorous 
stories, of which two are 
included here. The Boston 
Daily Advertiser of August 21, 
1877 ran a long article on the 
despised instrument, of which 
the following is a small part: 


Scathing Denunciation of an 
Alleged Musical Instrument. 

There is a so-called musical 
Instrument which Is variously 
known as the accordion, the 
concertina, or the harmonica. 
It is modeled on the common 
domestic cat. If a cat is either 
violently squeezed together or 
pulled out to an unusual 

length, the result is a note, or series of notes, of 
peculiar sharpness and of reed-like quality. 
There is no malignant musician who is not 
acquainted with the cat 's capabilities as a sound- 
producer, hut few men can play on a cat in a 
manner to satisfy a critical audience. Indeed, the 
cat is the most difficult of all musical 
instruments, and, though small boys frequently 
attempt to play it, an accomphshed cat virtuoso 
is very rare. As a substitute for the cat, some 
nameless villain, many years ago invented the 
concertina. This nefarious instrument is played 
by alternately squeezing and pulling it, as though 
It were a cat, and the sound which it gives forth 

Figure 22. Street musicians, ca. 1910. Courtesy of Stefan Grossman's Guitar 
Workshop, Sparta, New Jersey. 


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The Concertina in North America 

is a very close imitation of the former instrument, 
although a trifle more nasal in its timbre. 
Unfortunately, the concertina is as easy to master 
as the cat is difficult; and it is hence the favorite 
instrument of the idle and depraved. . . . 

There has recently occurred a joyful incident in 
New England which will . . . kindle hope in the 
breast of suffering humanity. During a thunder- 
shower in a New England town, a bold, bad man, 
who was doubtless either an atheist or a 
positivist, stood at his front door and played the 
concertina in a way that was little short of 
blasphemy. He had played that instrument with 
impunity for many years, and he believed that 
vengeance had forgotten him, and that he was 
safe. Suddenly a blinding flash of lightning 
darted from the sky and hit him fairly in the 
mouth. Then the electricity ran cheerfully down 
his body, scorching him in a way that would have 
brought smiles to the face of even a deaf person, 
and finally passing off through the toes of his 
boots, rendered these organs henceforth useless. 
The man was not entirely killed, but he was 
severely injured, and his neighbors are still quite 
hopeful as to his case. Of course, the incident is 
generally regarded hy the religious part of the 
community as an instance of the direct 
punishment of crime, and it will probably be a 
fruitful theme for sermons and tracts. All good 
men will rejoice at it and accept it as an evidence 
that the lightning is henceforth prepared to do its 
whole duty, and it is to be hoped that it will prove 
a salutary warning to those who are now 
habitually guilty of playing the concertina. 

Such mirthful — or partly mirthful! — 
denunciation is to be found in a piece in Puck 
magazine, in 1879, where the practice of 
nocturnal, rooftop concertina playing by urban 
apartment dwellers was roasted (see Figure 23): 

A Nocturne 

Calm is the night, and still. A faint and tender 

breeze passes silently over the lofty house-tops. 
The pale full moon, as yet untinged with 
autumn 's aureate rubescence, slumbers in the 
clear cerulean skies. For it is night. 

He who wakes leans on his window-sill, and 
listens . . . Peace broods over all . . . The listener 
draws in his head and closes the window. . . . 

Hark! A sound. Thin, clear, and drawn out. Is it 
the horns ofElfiand faintly blowing? 

No. It is the young man with the concertina. 

Slowly the sound swells in volume, gracefully it 
wobbles from one key to another, up and down 
the chromatic scale it plays like the jet of a 
musical fountain. Now with one sharp wail it 
cleaves the upper ether; now with a long-drawn 
gurgling moan it sinks to a second of silence, 
only to burst forth again in one wild gush of 
sound that is echoed back from the vasty caverns 
of clouds unseen in the high fathomless domes of 
the empyrean. 

He who wakes puts his head out again. He 
listens. The solo is no longer a solo — it is a grand 

concerted piece. A high, wildly modulated shriek 
answers from a back fence. 

What was it? It was the — what? Leave the answer 
to the unresponsive ages. 

And hark again! There is another voice in the 
concert. Bass, resonant, hoarse. It is the dog . . . 

And now the rooster! The urban rooster — the late 
and early city cock. Shrill and sharp from the 
tenement-house coop rings his clarion call. He 
answers the musician. 

And yet once more, for the last time, listen! A 
clattering rain of bootjacks — a crashing volley of 
china and tomato-cans. 


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The Anglo-German Concertina 

Still moans and wails andyawlps the treble of the 
concertina; still drones and booms its ghastly 

The man at the window withdraws into the room, 
and lays his hand caressingly upon the Indian 
club. Slowly he ascends toward heaven and the 
author of that plaintive melody. "The Sweet Bye- 
and-Bye " is hushed ere its final notes have 
thrilled the azure. 

It is still night. Calm and faint the tender breeze 
pauses over the lofty house-tops. The pale full 
moon, as yet untinged with autumn 's aureate 
rubescence, slumbers in the clear cerulean skies. 

And Peace broods over all. 

Silent Peace. 
— Victor Hugo 

Figure 23. Illustration to accompany 
"A Nocturne" . Vrom Pucl<, 1879. 

Prominent players of the concertina's heyday 

The concertina was frequently mentioned in 
late-nineteenth-century pubUc settings in a way 
that demonstrates that the instrument was iconic 
in addition to being commonplace. In 1888 one 
of President Grover Cleveland's generals, in the 
presence of the President, Ukened him to a 

[T] he free trade men can take hold of one handle 
and you go to them, and the high tariff men grasp 

the other end and you yield to them. I don 't know 
of anything that you resemble more than a 
concertina. Pull it in and out and at either end, 
or at both ends at once, and it is equally 
pliable. ^"^ 

Figure 24. Gerald R. Ford, Jr. as an infant, with toy 
concertina, June 1914. From the Gerald R. Ford 
Presidential Library and Museum, Ann Arbor, 

Thirty years later, future president Gerald 
Ford would be photographed as an infant with a 
concertina at his feet (Figure 24). Matthew 
Henson (1866-1955), an African-American 
explorer who worked for Robert Peary, learned to 
play the concertina as a ship's cabin boy and later 
played it in music and dance sessions with Inuits 
in the Arctic. He became the first person to reach 
the North Pole, and his unusual story is told in 
Chapter 4. 

Ruth Bryan Owen was the daughter of 
famed populist orator William Jennings Bryan. 
Married to a British officer a decade before 
World War I, she lived in London during the war 
years, serving as a nurse and — along with Mrs. 
Herbert Hoover — as joint secretary and treasurer 
of the American women' s war relief fund. Owen 
picked up an Anglo-German concertina in 
Jamaica in 1910 and played it wherever she went, 
which during the war included visits to the 


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The Concertina in North America 


wounded in British hospitals in Egypt (Figure 
25). By 1930, widowed and living in Florida, she 
became a member of Congress, and toured 
extensively on behalf of candidate Franklin 

Charles Longstreet Weltner was a Georgia 
Democrat and member of Congress in 1966. 
Favored to win re-election to a third term, he was 
stunned when rabid segregationist Lester 
Maddox won a Democratic party runoff for 
governor. The Democratic party required its 
candidates to sign a loyalty oath to support 
party nominees. Rather than sign that 
oath and its pledge to support Maddox, 
Weltner withdrew from the race, giving 
up a promising political career on 
principle. Life Magazine ran a story on 
him that year, noting that: 

There is none of the dour martyr in 
Wehner. He is bright and funny, with an 
impish face and a great gift for 
mimicking the broad hoot-and-holler 
manner of Dixie preachers and 
politicians. At parties, with very little 
urging, he will squeeze the Italian 
concertina and sing folk songs in an 

Not all prominent concertina players were 
model citizens. Notorious New York mobster Joe 
Amsberg's neighbors "remember him as a quiet 
lad diligently practicing on his concertina" before 
he was convicted and served time for burglary, 
grand larceny, felonious assault, and selling 
narcotics. The ultimate result of his lifestyle was 
pure gangland: "Joe Amsberg was polished off 
by the blazing guns of competitors in the 
Brooklyn Garage Massacre" in the early 1930s. 
His charred corpse was found in a stolen car that 
had been soaked in oil and set ablaze. 

uncertain baritone. 


Ruth Bryan Owen Mixes Music and 
Politics with Wheezy Concertina 

He later served as a state judge, and 
finally as a justice on the Georgia State 
Supreme Court. His story found its way 
to an updated version of John F. 
Kennedy's Profiles in Courage. He was 
on his deathbed in 1992, surrounded by 
concerned family members, when: 

[H]e said at one point, "Hey, I'm trying 
to die here, " his eldest son Philip 
recalled. . . . His second son, Charles, 
remembers him playing the concertina. 
"He played the concertina the night before 
he died, " he said. "He played, 'Waltzing 
Matilda. ' We were all gathered around and 
he played 'Waltzing Matilda ' and then he 
said, 'Oh, go on home. I won 't die tonight. I'll die 
tomorrow. 'And he did. '"' 

Figure 25. Ruth Bryan Owen playing her Anglo-German concertina. 
A daughter of famed American populist and orator William Jennings 
Bryan, she played her concertina as a nurse in World War I (upper left) 
and later in political meetings. She became a member of the United 
States Congress. From the Lincoln Star, 1930. 


The Anglo-German Concertina 

Concertina Use by Various Ethnic, 
Immigrant, and Social Groups 

Concertinas and African-American musicians 

The concertina was played by black 
musicians of the nineteenth century, as the photo 
of the Civil-War-era black youth in Figure 15 has 
shown. Just after the Civil War, an 
Englishwoman visited Galveston Island in 
offshore southeastern Texas in 1867 and recorded 
this scene of ex-slaves who were holding a 
Christmas Jubilee on the open prairie: 

Owing to the frequent rests required by the way, 
the shadows had gathered thick and fast before 
the cabins of the freed men were gained. You 
must, therefore, imagine a vast space of barren 
land, whose boundary on one side was a calm 
silvery bay, and on the other an ever rolling, 
sounding gulf and in the centre of this wild plain 
a number of wooden cottages painted white, 
brown and red— some of which were surrounded 
by the dark-leaved and radiant flowered 
oleanders, others with orange or creeping vines. 
From out of the small windows of these dwellings 
shone various lights, and here and there by the 
aid of those lights you might distinguish dusky 
looking figures — women dressed in holiday garb 
preparing the festive supper, whilst the younger 
darkies amused themselves as best suited their 
inclinations. Some were dancing on the prairie 
beneath the open sky already spangled with 
heaven 's bright stars, and others with 
tambourines, fiddles, and concertinas, were 
making negro melody singing. Shall I tell you, 
reader, of one of their most favoured songs — a 
never failing darkey effusion — sung at the close 
of the war, and most likely to be sung for years 
yet to come. It may be the strain will not accord 
with the feelings of many who may take up this 
book— they may even accuse the author of 
lacking good taste for inserting: hut. on the other 
hand, the tone is so thoroughly characteristic of 
those whom I wish to delineate, I beg to copy it at 
full length — 


Say, darkies, hab you seen the massa, 

Wid de miffstash on his face? 

Go long de road sometime dis momin ', 

Like he gwine to leab de place. 

He saw a smoke way up de ribber, 

Whar de Linkum gunboats lay; 

He took his hat an lefbery sudden, 

An I specks he 's run away. 

De massa run, ha! ha! de darkey stay, ho! ho! 

It mus be now de kingdom coming, an de year ob 

jubelo. . . . 

Take, therefore, into mind the scene — the Texan 

Prairie — the evening shades — the glittering 
stars — the rising moon, and the last lingering 
reflections of the sun — the wood cabins — the dark 
figures, some leaning against the door-post, some 
reclining on the ground, some chattering and 
smoking, some feeding the goats that stood round 
the fences, and others dancing. Some of the men 
dressed in the long loose blue coat of the Union 
coloured troops — some of the younger ones in 
white vests and light gloves, sporting, as a matter 
of course, watch chain and fancy cane. Women of 
colour were also visible — some neatly dressed, 
some radiant in rainbow attire, and others well, 
if not elegantly, attired. And as the women (most 
of them the mulatto or quadroon) walked on the 
Prairie, or danced to the music of their own 
people, free from the shackles of slavery, they 
looked what they often expressed— quite happy. 

The concertinas that were reportedly being 
played were likely similar to the one played by 
the black youth in Figure 17. The reference in the 
song to "Linkum" is of course Lincoln; they are 
singing about the Union troops in ironclad 
gunboats that had advanced deep into the south 
by the close of the war. This song was composed 
much earlier than the end of the war, however; 
Henry Clay Work (1832-1884), a Connecticut 
aboMonist, had written it in 1862 — anticipating 
the end of the war and of slavery — and it became 
popular not only with Christy's Minstrels and 
other such minstrel troupes, but with African- 
Americans, as in the above scene. Work's other 


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hit songs included My Grandfather's Clock and 
Marching Through Georgia; both were 
worldwide successes. 

Figure 26, taken from Harper's New 
Monthly Magazine, was drawn of a gathering in 
the black "Shermantown" district of Atlanta, 
Georgia, in 1879.™ In this evocative drawing, a 
banjo player is at the center, flanked by two 
fiddles, a flute or fife, and a concertina. It is well 
known that the distinctive "back-beat" rhythm of 
the old-time American string band musical style 
originated in the eighteenth and early nineteenth 
centuries with enslaved black musicians, who 
played the English and Irish tunes of their 
masters during plantation and other social 
dances, but with a distinctly African rhythm.^" 
These players also, of course, introduced tunes 
from their own backgrounds. A further 
development of the genre came when white 

musicians began to play using that rhythmic style 
in minstrel bands and in later "Old Time" string 
bands. Figure 26 documents the place of the 
Anglo concertina as an occasional accessory to 
this style. 

In an article entitled "Among Negro 
Performers" in the Washington D.C. journal. The 
Colored American, in 1900, "Ernst Hogan has 
learned the concertina and renders some beautiful 
and taking selections upon it. It is said that he 
puts in three hours daily upon his chosen 
instrument."^' Much more prominent was 
Matthew Henson (1866-1955), who as mentioned 
above was an African-American explorer who 
worked for Robert Peary, learned to play the 
concertina as a ship's cabin boy, and later played 
it in evening dance sessions with Inuit natives in 
the Arctic. He later became the first person to 
reach the North Pole (see Chapter 4). 


Figure 26. A drawing of an African-American string band with banjo, fiddles, flute and concertina, Atlanta, 1879. 
From Harper 's New Monthly Magazine, vol. 60. 


The Anglo-German Concertina 

World War I saw the use of segregated black 
regiments in France. Emmett J. Scott, an African- 
American who had been appointed to the position 
of Assistant to the Secretary of War (he was at 
that time the highest ranking black person in 
American government), wrote in 1919 about the 
service of black troops in that combat, including 
some effusive words of praise about their music: 

No labor is ever so onerous that it can bar music 
from the soul of black fi)lk. This race sings at 
work, at play and in every mood. Visitors to any 
army camp found the Negro doing musical 
"stunts " of some kind from reveille to taps — 
every hour, every minute of the day. All the time 
the trumpeters were not blowing out actual 
routine bugle calls, they were somewhere 
practicing them. Mouthorgans were going, 
concertinas were being drawn back and forth, 
and guitars, banjos, mandolins and whatnot were 
in use — playing all varieties of music, from the 
classic, like "Lucia, " "Poet and Peasant, " and 
"II Travatore " to the folk-songs and the 
rollicking "jazz. " Music is indeed the chiefest 
outlet of the Negro 's emotions, and the state of 
his soul can best be determined by the type of 
melody he pours forth. Some writer has said that 
a handful of pipers at the head of a Scotch 
regiment could lead that regiment down the 
mouth of a cannon. It is not doubted that a Negro 
regiment could be made to duplicate the 'Charge 
of the Light Brigade " at Balaklava — "into the 
mouth of hell, " as Tennyson puts it, if one of their 
regimental bands should play — as none but a 
colored band can play, the vivacious strains of 
"There 'II Be a Hot Time in the Old Town 

At this time, English, Australian, and New 
Zealand troops were also plajdng the concertina 

in trenches in various theatres of the war (see 
photographs and discussion in Chapters 2, 7, and 

Willie Green was a respected early Zydeco 
player (the music was first called "la la")- He 
moved to Houston, Texas, in the 1920s and 
began playing professionally in 1949. Green 
occasionally used a German concertina instead of 
his usual button accordion, playing a mixture of 


Cajun and blues tunes. ' He plays a German 
concertina on the track Baby Please Don't Go, 
recorded in 1960 (Arhoolie Records: Zydeco - 
Volume One: The Early Years 1 961). The 
preferred free-reed instrument among late- 
nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century black 
musicians, however, was the button accordion, 
according to Tared Snyder.^'* Among others, 
Leadbelly played a melodeon, and some of his 
recordings erroneously call it "concertina" music, 
as Snyder has pointed out. 

Immigrants and the concertina 

Inexpensive Anglo-German and German 
concertinas were extraordinarily popular with 
immigrant groups in the late nineteenth 
century — especially the Irish and English — and 
many brought them from the "old country." A 
Danish immigrant described his 1891 passage as 

/ went by way of Great Britain, sailing from 
Glasgow on an old steamer that took eighteen 
days to cross the Atlantic. But the trip was joyous 
enough. There were a few Danes, and many 
Scotch and Irish, the latter coming aboard when 
the ship touched at Londonderry. . . . Finally we 
came in sight of America. It was an afternoon in 
April, 189L I remember distinctly the eagerness 
with which we all had been gazing shoreward to 
see the first gleam of the promised land. When 
the shore and green hills appeared on the 
horizon, seemingly gliding up out of the ocean 
toward us, I remember how I isolated myself 
from the rest of the company, and -with eyes fixed 
on the new land, thought of the future before me 
and dreamed the dreams of youth and ambition. 
It was late evening when we came in through the 
Narrows and anchored off Tompkinsville for the 
night. It was unusually warm for the season— just 
like a beautiful, clear summer night. Someone 
brought out a concertina; the rest of us lay 
around on the deck, listening to the music. Close 
to us, from the hillsides ofStaten Island, shone 
myriads of lights. In front of us were Manhattan 
and Brooklyn joined by the web-like span of the 
Brooklyn Bridge, all, everything wrapped in 

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The Concertina in North America 

light oceans of light all around us. Indeed, this 
was fairylandf^ 

Once they landed, many immigrants heard 
the concertina again in New York boarding 
houses, as in this 1891 account: "At the boarding 
houses there is considerable sociability, plenty of 
concertina and flute music, with a dash of semi- 
barbaric melody from some unnamable 
instruments played by the Hungarians."^^ 

The Irish. It is not known how many Irish 
immigrants played concertinas in the nineteenth 
century, but clearly many did. In an 1894 
meeting of the new "Irish Musical Union" in 
New York, it was stated that "the object of the 
union is to revive and preserve Irish music. The 
present membership includes pianists, vioUnists, 
flutists, and concertina players."^^ The great 
Chicago music collector Francis O'Neill, 
however, had scarcely a mention of concertinas 
in his numerous nineteenth century works; this 
may be due to the fact that, as a proud piper, 
lowly (and relatively new) concertinas were of 
little interest to him (see Chapter 3). 

An 1880 crime report noted that "George 
Lieb stole a concertina worth $80 from a house in 
which John O'Neill resided; [he] sold it for 
$1.50."** It seems that the Irish penchant for top- 
of-the-Une, EngUsh-made Anglo concertinas had 
already begun. 

Perhaps the best indication of the status of 
nineteenth-century Irish immigrant concertina 
playing can be found in the following newspaper 
account of the travails of one Paddy Ryan in the 
seething immigrant jungle that was New York 
City in 1888. It is written in comic stage-Irish 

Where Ignorance is Bliss 

Although it is nearly a century since the tune of 
"Croppies Lie Down " was sung by Orangemen 
in Ireland while they massacred the Catholics, it 
still has the power to incite Irishmen to overt 
acts. Paddy Ryan plays the concertina. He was 
born in this city. He had somewhere heard the 
obnoxious tune but knew nothing of its historical 

significance. Paddy is a member of an East Side 
social club. The annual ball of his society 
occurred a few evenings since. The usual fiddle 
scrapers were on hand to provide the dance 
music but Paddy had brought his concertina 
along, being a little proud of his one 

During one of the lulls between the dances the 
president of the association went up to the boss 
musician and said: "Avye plaze, sor, Iwouldn 't 
be wantin ' t' be interfarin ' wid your music. 
Sure, we 're all highly plazed wid it, so we are, 
an ' more power t'yer elbow when yer waggin ' 
yer fiddle bow. Faix, ye 'II get yer pay whether or 
no, so ye will, an ' its not wan o ' us 'ud be takin 
wan cint off yer bill. " 

There he stopped to take a breath and the 
German pro fessor looked down at him from the 
platform in an enquiring way. "Votyou will haf 
minefrent? Beer, ha? " 

"Go smother yersel ', ye cheese-headed 
Dutchman. I can buy me own beer, so I can, an 
small fear t ' me. I want ye t ' stop squ 'akin ' th ' 
fiddles an ' rattlin ' th ' brass till Paddy Ryan plays 
an Irish chune on his concertina. Now, d 'ye 
understand that, ye ould beer barrel? " 

"Yah, yah, das is all recht. Stop de moosic. ". 
The music was stopped and the president 
shouted: "Will Paddy Ryan come up ftoj the 
platform an 'play an Irish chune fer the b 'ys an ' 
gur-rls? " 

Paddy came bashfully forth, his face suffused 
with blushes and his beloved concertina under 
his arm. 

"Play the 'Rakes o 'Mallow, ' ' ' shouted a voice. 

The rollicking air set everybody 's feet to itching. 
This was followed by "The Wind that Shakes the 
Barley, " "The Cat in the Comer, " and "The 
Limerick Races. " All these were rapturously 
received. Paddy was encouraged. He glowed 
with pride. Pulling his forelock apologetically, he 
stood up and said: 


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The Anglo-German Concertina 

" 'Av the ladies an ' gintlemin plaze, I'll play a 
new chime I 'm after larnin ' the other day. " 

Of course the audience was pleased, and every 
ear was open to catch the air. Paddy pulled the 
lively measures out of his instrument with 
eagerness. He had hardly played two bars, 
however, when the listeners turned and looked at 
each other with surprise and indignation. Then 
twenty roysterers arose as one man and made a 
rush for the luckless player. They seized him from 
behind and before. They kicked his concertina 
into the middle of the floor, where the girls made 
a football of it. They tore his store clothes from 
his back and bruised his cheeks with their hard 
fists. Those who could not get at him shook their 
fists in his direction and swore terrible oaths. 
Impelled by a stogy boot, poor Paddy shot out the 
door, followed by the howling mob. As he rolled 
down the staircase and out on the sidewalk, a 
friend picked him up and hurried him around the 
corner into a saloon. Bleeding, bruised, and 
almost naked, Paddy stammered: 
"Shure, w-w-w-hats th ' matter, Jim?" 
"Ah, ye ould fule, weren 'tye playin ' 'Croppies 
Lie Down?'" 

In 1926 and 1927, nearly forty years after 
Paddy Ryan's debacle, Irish immigrant William 
MuUaly made several Anglo concertina 
recordings in New Jersey; these were the first 
recordings of Irish music played on the 
instrument (see Chapter 3). 

German immigrants. It seems natural to expect 
that the Anglo-German concertina was also 
played by many German immigrants, but here the 
story becomes a bit more complex. Although 
Carl UhUg invented the two-row, twenty-button 
proto-Anglo concertina in Germany in the 
1830's, it was very soon enlarged to instruments 
of 56, 78, 102, and 114 notes as well as four or 
five rows of keys, with two or even three voices 
per note. These "Chemnitzer" concertinas soon 
lost their resemblance to the earlier two-row 
models as they grew to prodigious size. In the 
1880's, Otto Georgi brought the Chemnitzer with 
him as he immigrated to Chicago, and he soon 

began to sell imported Chemnitzer concertinas 
there. They are popular in the Midwest to this 
day with people of German and Czech origins. 

It is not known how popular the earlier two- 
row German concertina design was with German 
immigrants before Georgi's arrival, but clearly 
many played it. As Figure 27 shows, concertinas 
were advertised in the German-language New 
Jersey paper Der Zeitgeist in 1870. As 
previously mentioned, Carl F. Zimmermann, the 
shop owner who posted the advertisement, sold 
eighteen different models of German concertinas. 

Further evidence for the use of the simple 
two-row German concertina among German- 
Americans is contained in Howe's 1879 Western 
German Concertina School, which was written 
for two- and three-row German instruments in 
both the English and German languages. 
However, after the arrival of the imported 
Chemnitzer-system concertina in the 1880's, the 
German community apparently preferred the 
large Chemnitzer to the near exclusion of all 
other free-reed instruments with bellows, 
including the German concertina.'^" 

C. S .1 mmcriT ami, 

Oflfrifant urt6 S^wnfur sea 

Accordeons & ConctTtinM, 

untcrbali fice bitriit ^a^ btfit unb gic^te ijogtr tn 
tfii 'jfrfitJttCtnilfn Sfritn, rooiantft ntJ) ctttb itint 
rJlfttiirltJi lUiioti 3l(totDrcn<! ntbll ff intn praftitdKi 
i.'fffhiiAcrn in ^tutura-rn lijii'taii SRpitn fuT aSc foU 
(tj 3nrtrumentt auf uidntn. 
Sail n brr b(ilfii CuclitJt, fowtf oUf Sfn fpTiffi- 

•Satfreiim ju finben. llntfr 3u|l<$tning btr %mt 
flcn unb i{rlL)trn ^tCtttiuiii^ vmu .^m, 11 

6. %. ^'tHmmyxm. 

Figure 27. Concertina advertisement in New Jersey 
German language newspaper Der Zeitgeist, 1 870. 
Zimmerman was an early concertina builder in Saxony 
who emigrated to the United States, opening a shop in 
Philadelphia. A page from his English-language catalogue 
is shown in Figure 6. 


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English immigrants. English immigrants also 
brought concertinas to North America and played 
them there, although they immigrated in much 
smaller numbers than did the Irish and Germans 
in the late nineteenth century. Many Mormon 
concertina players were first-generation English 
immigrants, as was discussed above, and many 
were in the early Salvation Army in the United 
States and Canada (as noted in more detail 
below). A number of English textile workers 
from Lancashire immigrated to New England in 
1910, where they organized an English-style 
concertina band in New Bedford, Massachusetts. 
Its members played a variety of concertinas, the 
most numerous of which were two- and three- 
row Anglos of mostly English manufacture 
(Figure 28).^' No other examples of concertina 
bands are known in America, with the exception 

of numerous German and Czech polka bands that 
played the larger Chemnitzer concertinas. 

Italians. Although inexpensive Anglo 
concertinas had been built in Italy for the past 
thirty years or more, whether Italian immigrants 
made extensive use of them in North America is 
unclear. However, an 1896 newspaper account 
noted that in Philadelphia's "Little Italy" quarter, 
"every other house has a concertina or 
accordion."'^" On a Chicago passenger railway car 
in 1893, "in wandered a little Italian boy with a 
concertina ... of his own accord he pulled the 
concertina out to its widest extent and began 
'Tar-ra-ra Boom-de-ay. '"''^ 


The Anglo-German Concertina 

The concertina and native North Americans 

The Inuit and Aleut. In the nineteenth century 
the popular German concertina reached all the 
way to the most remote northern settlements in 
North America, where the native Aleut people 
hunted seal in southwestern Alaska, and the Inuit 
hunted whale and caribou across the Arctic rim. 
Throughout this vast and isolated region, whalers 
had plied the coastal waters and often wintered in 
Aleut and Inuit villages, where their sailors held 
dances to help pass the time. Aleut and Inuit 
people picked up the use of the concertina and 
accordion from those visitors (see Chapter 4 for a 
full description). A first-hand portrayal of that 
cultural interchange, is provided by the accounts 
of the 1899 voyage of the British whahng 
steamer Esquimaux through the Davis Straits to 
Greenland. To mark the end of a visit to an Inuit 
village along the west coast, 

[T]he crew were allowed to go onshore for a 
final dance. . . . The crew returned to the ship at 
10pm, with all the fair sex of the settlement at 
their heels. Something went wrong with the 
condenser [on the ship], so a concertina and 
violin were speedily at work on the ice, and 
dancing in full swing. I got up some races 
amongst the men and women, and gave 
scrambles for ginger nuts, tobacco, chocolate, 
etc. . . . All seemed to enjoy themselves 
immensely. The sun was behind the hill at 
midnight, and there were four degrees of frost 
while they were dancing on the ice. The natives 
have provided us with seven brace of ptarmigan, 
which are excellent.^'' 

Aleut people, who lived along the edges of 
the Bering Sea, were equally entranced by free- 
reed instruments. In 1886 a visitor to the Aleuts 

The great feminine solace in a well to do native 
hut is recourse to a concertina or accordion, as 
the case may be. These instruments are especially 
adapted to the people. Their plaintive, slow 
measure, when fingered in response to native 
tunes and old Slavonian ballads, always rise 
upon the ear in every Aleutian hamlet from early 


morning until far into the night. The appreciation 
of good music is keen. Many of the women can 
easily pick up strains from our own operas, and 
repeat them correctly after listening a short while 
to the traveler or his wife playing and singing. 
They are most pleased with sad, wailing tunes, 
such as "Lorena, " the "Old Cabin Home " and 
the like. 

The church "prazniks, " or festivals, are very 
quiet affairs, but when the Aleut determines to 
celebrate his birthday. . . he goes about it in full 
resolution to have a stirring and vociferous time. 
Therefore he brews a potential beer by putting a 
quantity of sugar, flour, rice, and dried apples (if 
he can get the latter) into a ten or twenty-gallon 
barrel, which is filled with water. He sends 
invitations out to his friends so dated as to bring 
them to the barrabkie (sod house) when a right 
degree of fermentation in the kvass-barrel shall 
have arrived; sometimes the odor of that barrel 
itself is sufficient to gather them in all on time. 
Some one of the natives who is famous for 
natural and cultivated skill in playing the 
accordion or concertina, is given the post of 
honor and the best of the beer; he or she, as the 
case may be, soon starts the most hilarious 
dancing, because Aleuts are exceedingly fond of 
this amusement, especially when stimulated by 
heer. If the amusement is large enough, the 
figures of an old Russian quadrille are gone 
through with, accompanied by indescribable 
grimaces and grotesque side-shuffles of the 
dancers, the old women and young men being the 
most demonstrative. Usually, however, a single 
waltzing couple has the floor at one time, 
whirling around with the liveliest hop-waltz 
steps, and as it settles down out of breath, a fresh 
pair springs up from the waiting and watching 

Libby Beaman, the wife of a government 
agent on the remote Pribilof Islands in the Bering 
Sea, wrote of the following Aleut Christmas in 
the islands' tiny village, St. Paul, in 1879: 

The dancing and festivities have been going on 
ever since Christmas. The first night after 

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The Concertina in North America 

Christmas, the school hall was thrown open for a 
masquerade dance. . . . The natives did all the 
most beautiful Russian folk dances, which they 
have learned to execute with perfection. . . . As 
the week passed, more and more clever maskers 
appeared in the streets and at the evening 
dances. . . . Last night, a few of the maskers 
stopped at the house. They came with the two 
concertina players and the fiddler and danced 
for about fifteen minutes for us, then went 

Other native groups. In the Pacific Northwest, a 
Canadian Indian Agent described this scene in 
Puget Sound in 1887: 

At Kyukaht, where the Rev. Father Nicolaye is 
now progressing favorably with his mission, 
nearly all the Indians were at home, some having 
been away several years in Puget Sound. Actis is 
a fine village, with good houses. I was present at 
a dance given in honor of some Kitkahtla 
Indians, visitors for sea otter hunting. 
This dance consisted of a march round 
the house, by men first, then women, 
two and two, all dressed in civilized 
apparel, to the music of a concertina 
and two drums; the policemen, in 
soldiers ' uniform, with drawn swords, 
keeping order and calling out "halt " 
or "march, " as the case might be. After 
these had fallen back to the sides of the 
house, the school boys came marching 
round with banners flying and passed 
into the centre of the house where 
school books were distributed and 
several pieces sung in EngUsh. The 
entertainment wound up with a short 
Indian dance of three, with masked 
heads, when a watch and pair of 
blankets were given to the stranger 

There can be little doubt that 
English missionaries brought the 
concertina to the Puget Sound for use 
in their prayer services. In 1888 at a 
missionary's service in the village of 

Metlakahtla, British Columbia, "service began 
with a hymn in Tsimshean. He led with his 
concertina. The air was plaintive and beautiful — 
sung by some 200 voices."'^ 

Metis people are descendants of Cree, 
Ojibway, Algonquin, and other native peoples in 
Canada. Like the Aleut, they picked up 
concertina playing and some associated dances 
from white visitors: 

Traditional musical instruments of the Metis 
include the fiddle, the concertina, the harmonica, 
the hand drum, the mouth harp, and finger 
instruments such as bones or spoons . . . Unlike 
other forms of music, traditional Metis style 
fiddle music is not contained in a bar structure 
and this creates a bounce to the tune that is 
unique to North America and can still be heard 
across Northwestern Canada and the United 
States. The traditional dance of the Metis include 
the Waltz Quadrille, the Square dance. Drops of 
Brandy, the Duck dance. La Double Gigue and 

Figure 29. An Inuit woman named Martha playing a German at 
Resolution Bay North West Territory (now Qausuittuq, Nunavut) 
Canada in 1956. Library and Archives Canada, photographer Gar 


The Anglo-German Concertina 

the Red River Jig which is the dance most widely 

The Blackfeet tribe in Montana also picked 
up music and dance from whites, as James 
Willard Schultz, who lived with the Piegan 
Blackfeet, wrote in 1907: 

We went on up the street to a fair-sized adobe 
cabin. Through the open doors and windows 
came the strains of a violin and concertina, and 
the air was as lively a one as I ever had heard. 
Many and many a time I heard it in after years, 
that and its companion dance pieces, music that 
had crossed the seas in the ships of Louis XV, 
and, taught by father to son for generations, by 
ear, had been played by the voyageurs up the 
immense length of the Mississippi and the 
Missouri, to become at last the popular music of 
the American in the Far Northwest."^'^ 

The concertina is not commonly used among 
any of these native groups today. 

Concertina use in the Salvation Army 

The Anglo-German concertina was in 
widespread use by the American branch of the 
Salvation Army in the latter pait of the nineteenth 
century. This movement, founded in 1865 in 
England by General William Booth, sought to 
save working and lower class people from the 
despair of drunkenness, poverty, and other urban 
plights by using populist religion. Period reports 
frequently mention use of the concertina in their 
activities, not only in England and North 
America, but in Ireland, Australia, and New 
Zealand as well (see preceding chapters). 

EUza Shirley was a sixteen-year-old eager 
volunteer of the early Salvation Army in 
Coventry, England. When her father, Amos, a 
skilled silk weaver, was transferred to 
Philadelphia in 1880, she formed the first 
Salvation Army outpost in the U.S. in that city, 
ultimately enlisting both her parents. Like many 
Salvation Army members at that time, her father 
played the Anglo concertina (Figure 30). 


Figure 30. Amos and Annie Shirley, Eliza's English 
parents, ca. 1880. From the USA Central Division 
Historical Museum, Salvation Army, Des Plaines Illinois. 

During the late nineteenth century, the 
Anglo-German concertina seems to have been the 
concertina of choice in the Salvation Army. 
William Booth's third son, Herbert, played the 
Anglo (see below), as did second son, Ballington, 
who was commandant in the U.S. branch from 
1891 to 1896. In a meeting in Omaha in 1893, 

Commander [Ballington] Booth then took out 
from a leather case that far-famed musical 
instrument, the concertina, and with this 
accompaniment sang a hymn of his own 
composing, wonderfidly sweet and touching. At 
first many in the audience were inclined to 
indifference, but as the rich tones of his voice 
filled the church with melody, the harshness of 
the instrument was forgotten in an endeavor to 
catch the words. The refined sensibilities of 
Commander Booth were made apparent when, as 

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The Concertina in North America 

if in rebuke to those who had at first been prone 
to criticize, he remarked in the words of David, 
"Let everything praise the Lord— even the 
concertina. "^"^ 

General Booth's daughter Evangeline (1865- 
1950) was photographed several times with a 
Jeffries Anglo-Chromatic instrument (Figures 31 
and 32). Eva Booth was Commandant in the U.S. 
for a short period during 1896, moved to assume 
that role in Canada, and returned in 1904 as 
Territorial Commander, a post she held until 
1934; she became an American citizen during 
that time. She had a flair for the dramatic in her 
evangelical work, as this report of a 1920s event 

The glittering crowd at the Metropolitan Opera 
House included many of New York City 's elite. 
Now, as rousing music stirred their souls, they 
sat expectantly. In the darkened auditorium, 
singers clad in hooded robes of red and white 
mounted the stage and formed a huge crimson 
cross. The audience was ready, more than 
ready — but for what? . . . As the anticipation 
mounted, a single shaft of blue light caught a 
solitary figure heading down the center aisle. 
Dressed in tatters and rags, the homely female 
form picked a tune on her concertina. The 
costumed waif was Commander Evangeline 
Booth, head of the U.S. branch of the Salvation 
Army and one of the few female denomination 
leaders in the 1920s. On this night. Booth was 
using New York's premier stage to present one of 
her acclaimed pageant-sermons . . . The 
Commander in Rags. '^^ 

Her popularity and that of EUza Shirley 
seems to have helped draw many young women 
to the Army ranks. Figure 33 shows Staff Captain 
Libby McCabe from Seattle, concertina in hand, 
and Figure 34 depicts a trio of American 
Salvation Army musicians, one with Anglo 
concertina. Entire families picked up instruments 
to support Army efforts, as shown in Figure 35. 
Many in the nineteenth-century American (and 
British) press took a condescending, elitist tone 
when discussing the movement and its working- 

class followers. The concertina was often 
mentioned as a central part of the Army's 
musical activities; an example is this report of an 
1888 gathering in New York City: 


By The Gory Heroes of the Salvation Army. 

Blood Washed Warriors Make Converts and 
Noise in Everett Hall— An address by 
Commandant Booth. 

Satan caught it hot and heavy at Everett Hall last 
night, and was seriously jumped upon and 
maltreated by about seven hundred enthusiastic 
members of the Salvation Army persuasion, 
assembled to welcome Commandant Herbert 
Booth [grandson of the founder]. . . . To the right 
sat Staff Captain Annie Reese, cuddling a guitar, 
and Staff Captain Patty Watkins, nursing a 
tambourine. . . . The ceremonies opened with a 
prayer by the marshal, who in conclusion called 
for all hands to shout aloud for salvation. 
Salvation was accordingly shouted for to the tune 
of "While We Go Marching through Georgia" 
. . . Commandant Herbert Booth in nasal accent 
sang a hymn, accompanying himself with a 
concertina slightly out of tune, and Adjutant 
MacFarlane . . . said some very unpleasant 
things about his Satanic Majesty.'"^ 

In a stunt at an 1897 meeting, Adjutant J.C. 
Ludgate "attempted to break his previous record 
of singing 56 songs in 60 minutes," 
accompanying himself on the concertina. '"Now 
take a long breath and get your handkerchief 
ready!' exclaimed the adjutant, picking up his 
concertina, 'for when we're well started we can't 
stop!'" Fifty-eight minutes later, he had his 
record, and the acid-tongued comments of the 
reporter were predictable: 

What could be more irreverent or grotesque in a 
religious service than the spectacle of a leather- 
lunged singer bawling "Come to Jesus " at a rate 
of speed which would baffle the skill of the most 
expert stenographer. . . . A few days ago Booth- 
Tucker 's Salvation Army barracks were branded 
as "a disorderly house, " because all night 


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The Anglo-German Concertina 

Figure 31. Evangeline Booth in New York City, 1896, with her 
Jeffries Anglo-German concertina. From the Salvation Army 
National Archives, Alexandria, Virginia. 

Figure 32. Evangeline Booth during her years as US Territorial 
Commander, ca. 1920. From the Salvation Army National 
Archives, Alexandria, Virginia. 


[cviTanjut mao at d. o. kocxwooD] 



The Concertina in North America 

Figure 33. Staff 
Captain Libby 
McCabe, Seattle 
Washington, with 
concertina, ca. 1890. 
From the USA 
Central Division 
Historical Museum, 
Salvation Army, Des 
Plaines Illinois. 

Figure 34. A trio of 
American Salvation 
Army musicians, ca. 
1880, with Anglo- 
German concertina, 
autoharp, and guitar. 
Image courtesy of 
Jared Snyder. 

Figure 35. A musical American family, ca.l885. Note the Anglo-German concertina at the center of the group as well as the 
Salvation Army insignia worn by several family members. From the USA Central Division Historical Museum, Salvation 
Army, Des Plaines Illinois. 


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The Anglo-German Concertina 

religious services were marked by a volume of 
noise that rendered it impossible for occupants of 
neighboring houses to sleep/"* 

A similar Los Angeles gathering met a 
similar response in an article entitled "The Noisy 
Nuisance Again Out in Full Force:" 

About seven o 'clock they filed downstairs from 
their barracks . . . with flaming torches, banners 
flying, big drum couchant, and concertina, 
anything but resonant. Immediately a crowd 
began to gather, and the word went around that 
the "city [noise] ordinance did not stick. "... 
The woman with the tambourine shouted louder 
than usual, and the concertina was worked so 
violently that the noise of a wind instrument, who 
carried the flag, was drowned out in the general 
babel of confusion. . . . According to the War 
Ciy, there were only 13 souls saved in Los 
Angeles during the past year. Considering the 
noise made by this band of unmusical tramps it is 
surprising that there were so many saved/"^ 

In Utah, Mormons were aware of the poor 
quality of the reception generally given the 
Salvation Army by polite society elsewhere, as 
they had earlier experienced similar treatment: 

Salvationists in New York are apparently about 

to undergo some of the adversities experienced 
by the pioneer Salvationists [the Mormons]. A 
New York Jury has found Booth-Tucker guilty of 
maintaining a disorderly house because the lads 
and lassies of his hallelujah band disturb the 
peace of mind and body of neighboring residents. 
. . . When a Salvationist gets warmed up to his 
spiritual work, the hallelujahs reverberate with 
crescendo loudness, and accompanied by 
cymbals, drum, fiddle and concertina, make just 
such a combination as Ogdenites lately have had 
the pleasure of listening to. . . . Could the sins of 
the city 's debauching, carousing, chastity- 
destroying thousands be transmuted into sound, 
they would rise to high Heaven from pits of hell 
. . . with the tremendous roar of a Kansas 
cyclone, to awe and put to rout those whose ears 
are now so finely attuned to the commercial 

world as to be jarred by the clang of a 
[Salvationist 's ] cymbal. ' '^^ 

The loud, brash Anglo concertina fit in well 
with the working class people that the Army 
sought to convert. As an English Field Officer's 
magazine put it, "It is not too much to say that a 
very large proportion of the Officers whose Field 
service has been brought to an untimely end 
through throat and chest affections would have 
been saved to the War had they taken the 
precaution of easing the strain on throat and 
lungs by learning to play the concertina."' " It 
was played in many open air gatherings, such as 
the tent meeting depicted in Figures 36, 37, and 
(possibly) 38, in the U.S. Midwest. The core 
group of musicians in the first two photographs 
played three Anglo-German concertinas as well 
as a banjo, violin, guitar, comet, and tambourine. 
In the photograph on the parade ground (Figure 
36), the concertinas take the lead, with their 
immediate band members following close 
behind. A brass band and a number of singers, 
hymn books in hand, round out the parade, along 
with a two standard bearers, one of which is 
carrying a furled American flag. 

In the twentieth century, as the Army 
became increasingly involved in high-price 
disaster relief operations, the instrument of 
choice was changed to the English-system 
concertina, as this 1909 article pronounced: "No 
instrument is at the same time so portable, so 
powerful, cheap, and easily manipulated as a 
concertina — the English type for preference, 
though the Anglo-German makes an excellent 
substitute."'"** It may be that the English-system 
instrument was seen as more acceptable to the 
larger public the Army was now attempting to 
reach. In the present-day Salvation Army, neither 
is frequently played. 


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The Concertina in North America 

The Anglo-German Concertina 

Figure 37. A group of musicians at a Salvation Army tent meeting, USA Midwest, ca. 1 895. Note the three Anglo -German 
concertinas. From the USA Central Division Historical Museum, Salvation Army, Des Plaines Illinois. 

Figure 38. Men inside a tent, possibly at the same tent gathering depicted in Figures 35 and 36. Note the Anglo-German 
concertina. With thanks to Jared Snyder. 


The Concertina in North America 

The Early Twentieth Century: Decline 
and Disappearance 

Decline of the concertina 

The popularity enjoyed by German and 
Anglo -German concertinas in nineteenth-century 
America among immigrants, sailors. Mormon 
pioneers, minstrel musicians, Salvadonists, and 
others was not to last. In the early twentieth 
century, sales and usage of concertinas in the 
United States plummeted. Catalogs such as 
Montgomery Ward ceased carrying the 
instruments, and very few new tutors were 
published. Classified sections in newspapers 
during the period from 1900 to 1920 included 
large numbers of ads for both Anglo-German and 
English concertinas that were being unloaded by 
their owners, and few, if any, advertisements 
appeared from musical instrument retailers 
selling new ones. Public interest stories in 
newspapers that included the instrument became 
few and far between as public interest dropped 

precipitously. An article in the 1901 New York 
Tribune said: 

What has become of the accordions, concertinas, 

harmonicas, Jews-harps and bones? Once upon a 
time these were prize possessions . . . A strange 
thing about the accordion is that it has found its 
way into pawnshops to such an extent that people 
who wish to buy one go to the pawnshops first. 
The pawnbrokers have become good customers 
for all grades of accordions and concertinas . . . 
"The tambourines and bones, " said the musical 
instrument dealer, "were conspicuous features in 
the old fashioned minstrel shows . . . but the 
minstrel shows are not what they were, [and] 
bones are back numbers. ""^ 

The following bit of doggerel from a 
Bellevue Washington newspaper in 1914 shows 
that the reasons for the concertina's demise 
included both changing fashion, and the arrival of 
the mass-produced piano: 

Mine Own 

My concertina sobs and shakes, for it's in poor repair. 

And neighbors say the noise it makes would cause the saints to swear. 

My neighbors come, in protest bent, when on it I perform; 

"Why don't you buy an instrument that's up to date?" they storm. 

"Pianos now are in the reach of e'en the poorest man. 

And you might go and buy a peach on the installment plan. 

Pipe organs too, on easy terms, are sold most everywhere; 

Why play a thing that squeaks and squirms, and murders every air?" 

"Because," I answer, "'tis mine own, all paid for, long ago; 
And though it has a beastly tone, that fills the town with woe, 
I'd rather hear its music sad, that keeps me in a sweat. 
Than own the fairest, sweetest Strad, for which I'd gone in debt. 
I'd rather it should make me sore with discords, every day. 
Than have collectors at the door demanding instant pay. 
The humble whistle, built of tin, by local plumber made. 
Beats organ, flute or violin for which you haven't paid. 
My concertina seems a crime to folks like you, and yet, 
I find that music most sublime which doesn't hint of debt." 

— Wah Mason "° 


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The Anglo-German Concertina 

Still other reasons besides changing fashion 
and the arrival of other mass-produced 
instruments seem to have played a part in the 
broad and abrupt cessation in public interest in 
the Anglo concertina. First, amateur music in 
America was severely affected by the new 
Edison gramophone and the later Victrola, both 
invented in the United States. Sales of pianos and 
other instruments drastically declined, as amateur 
"social orchestras" were replaced by home use of 
professionally made recordings. 

A second, more damaging cause was the 
abrupt and pervasive change in American popular 
music itself. The immigrant "melting pot" 
swelled in size and diversity towards the end of 
the nineteenth century, including large numbers 
of people from middle and eastern Europe. 
Combined with the now-free and increasingly 
mobile African-American population, these 
groups changed American popular music from a 
largely diatonic affair with strong English, Irish, 
and Scottish roots, to one with a more chromatic 
palette. Starting with ragtime, and continuing 
with Tin Pan Alley and Broadway melodies, jazz, 
rhythm and blues, and extending into and beyond 
rock 'n' roll, American popular music frequently 
added notes not playable on a two-row Anglo- 
German concertina (and somewhat awkwardly 
playable on a three-row Anglo). American 
popular music and the little Anglo-German 
instrument had parted ways, and the more 
chromatically able ukulele, guitar, and (for those 
who could afford it) piano became the new 
champions of working-class home musicians. 

This new, more-chromatic popular music 
originated in the United States and then spread to 
other parts of the globe, so that the impact on the 
Anglo concertina was felt first and hardest here. 
Small pockets of now-termed "traditional" 
players survived in the rural west of Ireland and 
in isolated parts of England, Australia, and South 
Africa. While England has recordings of William 
Kimber and Scan Tester that reach back to the 
Anglo's heydays, Australia has Dooley Chapman 
among others, and Ireland has its unbroken 
concertina tradition, the United States was left 
without a recorded legacy of its equally long and 

rich nineteenth-century Anglo-German concer- 
tina experience. 

Although concertina playing had virtually 
died out in the United States as a cohesive 
cultural phenomenon, the inexpensive German 
instruments were still carried by a few large 
general- purpose music stores much as they are 
today. These instruments found their way into the 
hands of small numbers of isolated individual 
players in the early part of the twentieth century. 
In New Jersey, a present day concertina player 

My late father told me stories about his parents 
playing in the house when friends would come 
over. On occasion he would be sent with a few 
dollars to go buy a new concertina, and a few 
quarts of beer, and hurry back to help get ready 
for the guests. My late grandmother only played 
2 row concertinas, and a single row melodeon 
.... That was rural southern New Jersey in the 

Individual, aging immigrant players often 
continued to play the instrument. Arthur 
Richardson (1879-1967) was bom in England 
and lived in South Africa and Canada before 
immigrating to Baltimore, Maryland. He had 
played the concertina since childhood in South 
Africa, and when the jazz age came, played it in 
his family's jazz band. Such instances were 
increasingly rare however, as the jazz age picked 
up ever more fans."^ 

Other than such isolated pockets of 
remaining players, however, the only part of the 
American public that continued to play the Anglo 
concertina in the early and middle twentieth 
century consisted mainly of a very few recently- 
arrived Anglo-playing Irish immigrants. County 
Westmeath native William MuUaly brought his 
Anglo concertina with him when he arrived from 
Ireland in 1910. His Columbia and Victor 
phonograph recordings, made in Camden New 
Jersey in 1926 and 1927, comprise the earliest 
known recordings of Irish music played on the 
Anglo concertina (see Chapter 3). In similar 
fashion. Father Charlie Coen immigrated to the 


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The Concertina in North America 

United States in 1955, and made several 
recordings of his native Irish music. 

The Hollywood Anglo, and arrival of clowns 
and girdles 

After the Anglo concertina had passed out of 
American popular use, a brief review of a newly 
released silent movie appeared in a 1921 North 
Carolina newspaper: 

A real old-fashioned barn dance with real old- 
fashioned music furnished by a mouth organ, 
concertina and fiddler is one of the opening 
scenes in "Roads of Destiny", a big new 
Goldwyn picture. . . . In the barn dance, [the 
heroine] enters the throng, and laughs, jollies, 
and enjoys herself with the crowd of extras as 
though she were actually living in the olden days 
when the bam dance with the old fashioned 
music and surroundings was the regular nightly 
amusement. . . . The atmosphere of this new 
picture is perfect.' 

Thus began the use of the Anglo-German 
concertina in popular Hollywood culture, as a 
stage prop to produce the "atmosphere" of olden 
times. Although it had disappeared from the 
popular music scene, the little concertina had 
made an impact upon popular memory and 
imagination that has long outlasted its music. 
Moviemakers remembered that their grand- 
parents had played them. In films from the 1920s 
to the early 1960s, the concertina appears in the 
hcinds of sailors, or pioneers in covered wagons, 
or is played by star-crossed lovers— nearly 
always with an accordion voice-over— whenever 
an "olden times" or especially affectionate setting 
was called for. My Girl Tisa, a 1948 release, 
(Figure 39) explored immigration issues in tum- 
of-the-century New York, and an Anglo 
concertina played by an old-timer added period 
atmosphere to a scene in a ferry terminal. 

The concertina (usually a German 
concertina) entered twentieth-centuiy Hollywood 
as a cultural echo; people remembered that they 
had been played more than a half century earlier. 

Just as modern Hawaiian movies are 
stereotypically replete with ukuleles, celluloid 
sailors were commonly shown pumping the 
concertina. An English concertina appeared in 
the 1956 version of Moby Dick despite never 
having been mentioned in the original 1851 
Herman Melville novel, and a German concertina 
appeared in the hands of Bing Crosby as he 
crooned the hit song "Tme Love" to Grace Kelly 
on a yacht in 1956' s High Society with an 
accordion on the soundtrack. 

The concertina also appeared in many 
westerns, and movie audiences found it somehow 
familiar and in sync with such "folksy" 
situations. In 1952's The Big Sky, a French fiir 
trapper is prominently shown playing a German 
concertina during an era of American history that 
predated its invention by a full thirty years. Bob 
Hope sang with one— albeit to an accordion 
soundtrack —inside a covered wagon in 1948's 
Paleface, cind Lloyd "Arkansas SUm" Andrews 
played one in 1941 's Ridin' the Cherokee Trail 
(Figure 40). None of these performers had the 
slightest inkling of how to play it, but then 
neither did the audience. Nonetheless they all had 
a vague, shared memory that perhaps a western 
setting might be appropriate for the concertina — 
and as the above discussion documents, these 
instruments really were played for dances that 
occurred in covered- wagon days. Such movie 
references became much less common toward the 
end of the twentieth century, as the cultural 
echoes of the Anglo concertina faded from public 

The concertina echoed in other ways as well. 
Words Uke concertina wire (during and after 
World War I), concertina-pleated skirts and 
Maidenform's concertina girdle (both in the 
1950' s) evoked a shared memory of the bellows 
function. At the same time, concertinas were 
resurrected by clown acts, often using miniatures. 
In 1944, "Roily Rolls the Musical Clown" played 
"the world's smallest concertina" in a Dallas, 
Texas, event.""^ In 1951, "Snookums blows tunes 
on a whistle and plays a concertina." Such was 
the state of affairs of the once-popular Anglo- 
German concertina in the United States by 


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The Anglo-German Concertina 

The Concertina in North America 

The Anglo in the North American 
Concertina Revival 

By the late twentieth century, any trace of 
the instrument's nineteenth century heyday in 
America had fully receded from Uving memory. 
A global resurgence of all things concertina was 
spurred on by flie concertina "revival" in England 
in the 1960s and 1970s (see Chapter 2) and by 
the concurrent global popularization of 
traditional music from Ireland (Chapter 3). 
Cowboy singer Michael Murphey began to use 
an Anglo concertina in some of his western-style 
performances in 1973. Most other American 
musicians who began playing it in the 1970s and 
1980s thought of it as an Msh, English or even 
Gypsy folk instrument, unaware of its long 
history of use within American popular culture. 

Current performers and prominent players 

Accordingly, current Anglo-German 
concertina usage in North America is mostly 
connected with various genres of European 
traditional dance music, of which Irish music is 
the most prevalent. Although Irish emigration to 
the United States and Canada had long since 
waned by the time of the concertina "revival," 
smaller numbers of recent Irish immigrants, 
including such players as Father Charlie Coen in 
New York and Gearoid 6 hAUmhurain in 
Montreal, continue to provide examples for 
growing numbers of American enthusiasts. 
Chicago-bom Anglo concertina and button 
accordion player John WiUiams, whose father is 
from Doolin, County Clare, is a home-grown All- 
Ireland winner. There is a large group of Anglo 
players in the Irish style; a few who play in bands 
or for dances include Jack Gilder, Peter Persoff, 
and Daniel Hersch of CaUfomia; Devin McCabe 
of Wisconsin; Asher Perkins of Michigan; Chris 
Stevens of New England; and Alex Reidinger of 
North Carolina. In similar fashion, English- 
bom John Roberts (Figure 41) performs English 
traditional music in New England using Anglo- 
and English-system concertinas, and has made a 
large number of recordings of traditional English 
songs and shanties with fellow ex-pat Tony 

Barrand. Robin Harrison and Paul Read play 
EngUsh music on the Anglo and host English- 
style sessions in Ontario. Jim Besser is a follower 
of morris dance music on the Anglo in 
Washington, D. C, as is Gary Coover in 

A very few performers have sought to 
recreate an American style on the instalment. 
None of these musicians has direct musical ties to 
the instrument's nineteenth-century heyday in 
America, but they are aware in varying degrees 
of its earlier history. Bertram Levy is an old-time 
banjo player who picked up the Anglo in the 
1970s, utilizing it in several recorded albums of 
the 1980s. Sage/lower Suite, with his friend 
Frank Ferrel on fiddle, stuck to a mostly 
American palette, and First Generation explored 
American, Irish, and Eastem European genres. 
He left the Anglo concertina for the bandoneon 
and tango music in the 1990s, but recently held a 
concertina workshop in Texas (Figure 42), and is 
reportedly working on a new Anglo tutor. His 
popular Anglo tutor of 1985, The Anglo 
Concertina Demystified, was the first American 
tutor since the nineteenth century to make 
extensive use of American tunes alongside more 
familiar Irish and English fare. 

Jody Kruskal (Figure 43) and his brother 
Tom Kruskal grew up in Chicago and play the 
Anglo concertina in a chorded style that Tom 
first learned from recordings of William Kimber. 
Tom uses it for English morris dances and for 
contra dances in New England. Brooklyn-based 
Jody also plays for contras, and has experimented 
with old time American music, releasing a CD of 
this genre in 2007 (Poor Little Liza Jane). Like 
Levy, he has led concertina workshops in 
Massachusetts and Texas, featuring his "old- 
time" style. 

Literary renaissance 

The last two decades have seen an amazing 
renaissance of material written by and for 
concertina enthusiasts, and a large amount of that 
material has originated in North America, where 
the concertina "revival" is especially robust. John 
Townley and George SaUey published the 
magazine Concertina and Squeezebox, later taken 


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The Anglo-German Concertina 

over by Joel Cowan, in the 1980s and 1990s; it 
and its Australian cousin Concertina Magazine 
bridged the gap left when the English publication 
Free Reed ceased publication. Townley also 
produced a video instruction entitled The 
Seaman 's Concertina that attempted to emulate 
English and American seagoing use of the Anglo 
in the nineteenth century. 

Paul Schwartz, of Montreal, Canada, 
founded the internet site in 1996; 
it has since become the most popular place on the 
web for concertina enthusiasts from all around 
the world to share news and information. 

Allan Atlas, an English-system concertina 
player, established the Center for the Study of 
Free Reed Instruments at the graduate center of 
the City University of New York in the 1990s, 
and has edited both The Free Reed Journal as 
well as its successor. Papers of the International 
Concertina Association. 

Maccann duet player Robert Gaskins of San 
Francisco founded the digital Concertina Library 
(online at It has 
become a major site for historical information on 
all types of concertinas, with contributors from 
several countries. 

Copyrighted malBfi^l 

The Concertina in North America 

Figure 44. Participants at the fifth annual Northeast Concertina Workshop, Amherst Massachusetts, 2008. With thanks to 
The Button Box. 

Figure 45. Noel Hill's East Coast concertina school of 2000. Hill is on the front row, third from the right. 
Such instructional workshops held by visiting Irish concertina players have become very popular in the U.S. in 
the last decade, and Hill holds three each year in various parts of the country. The photograph is by Wally 
Carroll, who has since become a builder of Anglo concertinas in Kentucky. With thanks to 


The Anglo-German Concertina 


Organizations and workshops 

The last decade has seen a phenomenal 
growth in the number of concertina workshops in 
the United States, especially for the Anglo 
concertina played in the Wsh style. The largest 
concertina gathering in North America is the 
Northeast Concertina Workshop (Figure 44) held 
each spring in Amherst, Massachusetts. There is 
also a concertina workshop in late March at the 
Palestine Old Time Music and Dulcimer Festival, 
Palestine Texas (Figure 43). Both began in 2004. 

Noel Hill holds three week-long Irish 
concertina workshops each year in eastern, mid- 
western, and western locations in the U.S. 
(Figure 45). There are many other Irish and 
traditional music workshops in the United States 
and Canada that will include concertina 
instruction; Ken Coles maintains a list of such 
workshops at 

Builders and repairers 

In the 1990s and 2000s, Anglo concertina 
manufacture began in eight North American 
locations. These appear to be the only such 
instruments ever to have been built here,"*' and 
there are now more builders in the United States 
than in any other country. Traditional-style 
instmments with concertina reeds are built by 
Wally Carroll of Carroll Concertinas in Kentucky 
(Figure 46), Dana Johnson of Kensington 
Concertinas in Maryland, Jeff Thomas of 
Thomas Concertinas in Maryland, and Wim 
Wakker of Concertina Connection in Washington 
State. Wakker is a recent immigrant from the 

The construction of hybrid concertinas in the 
United States — high-quality, Anglo-style 
instruments but with accordion-style reeds — 
began with the efforts of Harold Herrington of 
Herrington Concertinas in Texas (Figure 47) and 
the late Richard Morse of the Button Box in 
Massachusetts (Figure 48), both of whom 
brought their designs into production in the late 
1990s. They were joined slightly later by Bob 


Tedrow of Homewood Musical Instmment 
Company in Alabama (Figure 49), and Frank 
Edgley of Edgley Concertinas in Ontario. 
Contact information for these builders is located 
in the Resources section of Chapter 1 . 

Concurrent with the rise of builders are 
newly established concertina repairers. Most of 
the above builders will repair, but repair 
specialists include Paul Groff in Florida, Greg 
Jowaisas in Kentucky (Figure 50), Paul Read in 
Ontario, Bob Snopes at the Button Box in 
Massachusetts, and Frank Edgley in Ontario. 

American traditional music for the Anglo 

The heyday of the Anglo concertina in the 
middle of the nineteenth century coincided with a 
period of exceptionally high musical creativity 
within the United States that in turn coincided 
with the turbulence of the Civil War and its 
lengthy aftermath. According to Patrick Sky, 
musician and American musicologist, 

Songsters "sold by the truck loads "... The 
minstrel show had reached its popular zenith, 
and road shows of every description were 
traveling all over the United States . . . a music 
boom took place in the middle of the nineteenth 
century that included not only song and dance 
but also instrumental music and especially music 
for the violin and banjo. ^'"^ 

For those interested in playing this 
American music on the Anglo-German 
concertina, the tutors and music collections of 
Elias Howe are of central importance. His tutors 
entitled Howe 's Western German Concertina 
School and Howe 's Eclectic School for the 
Concertina (both published in 1879) are low on 
technique but high in content of popular dances 
and minstrel songs of American origin, as well as 
the more common Irish and English dance tunes. 
Although Alfred Sedgwick was indifferent to the 
Anglo concertina, he pubUshed some of the best 
nineteenth century tutors for it, including 
Sedgwick's Improved and Complete Instructions 
for the German Concertina of 1865. These tutors 

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The Concertina in North America 

are long out of print, but all are available for free 
download at the Concertina Library, 

The musical content of the above late- 
nineteenth-century German concertina tutors may 
be unfamiUar to some however, because the 
dance music that they include is heavily tilted 
toward ballroom-style dances that are not as 
fashionable today. such as quadrilles, 
schottisches, quicksteps, and galops. EUas 
Howe's large late-nineteenth-century tune 
collections deleted many of these tunes and 
concentrated on the reels, jigs, and hompipes that 
constitute most of the present American and Irish 
fiddle repertoire. These collections include both 
Howe's 1000 Jigs and Reels (1867), and a very 
similar collection published by his employee and 
business associate William Bradbury Ryan as 
Ryan's Mammoth Fiddle Tunes (1882). Both 
were reprinted by Mel Bay Publications in the 
1990s. Of the two, Ryan's is still in print and is 
very highly recommended as a signature 
repository of nineteenth-century American 
traditional music. All of these tunes were copied 
directly, without attribution, into the now out-of- 
print Cole 's 1000 Fiddle Tunes of 1940, itself at 
one time considered the "Fiddler's Bible" of 
American traditional music. 

Elias Howe was easily the most important 
American collector of the nineteenth century, and 
these volumes contain hundreds of classic 
American-born tunes among more to-be-expected 
Irish and English melodies. Many of the credited 
American composers in these collections were 
active in minstrelsy, including Dan Emmett, 
Edwin Christie, and Frank Livingston; minstrel 
groups composed and played a lot of dance 
music. Many of the settings are unusual, such as 
the "jigs" in 2/4 time that are said to be the result 
of rhythm modifications by clawhammer banjo 
players."* Many tunes known in the Irish 
repertoire as hompipes or polkas are shown in 
Howe 's/Ryan 's/Cole 's as reels, and even those 
tunes noted there as hornpipes are typically 
played by American fiddlers as reels. The 
influence of these tune books has been enormous, 
not only upon American traditional music and the 
country and blues genres that were to follow, but 

also on Irish music. Howe and Ryan collected 
over six hundred Irish tunes, more than any 
collector before Francis O'Neill. Several studies 
have concluded that about one in seven tunes in 
O'Neill's Music of Ireland (1903) was likely 
taken in a nearly unaltered form from Ryan 's 
(often with a slight name change to a more Irish- 
sounding title)."' Such borrowing of tunes was 
standard practice among music publishers at the 

The tunes in Howe's/Ryan's/Cole's are 
typically in fiddle keys of G, D, and A; but in 
Howe's German concertina tutors they are 
written in C and G, which would have been the 
keys played by groups with German concertinas 
in the nineteenth century. The fiddles would tune 
down to the concertina, as the two-row 
concertinas were mostly played in their typical 
"home keys" of C and G. 

In 1997 the music of the frontier Mormon 
settlers was captured on a double CD by the 
Beehive Band entitled Hymns, Songs and Fiddle 
Tunes of the Mormon Pioneers that contains 
some concertina playing. 

Finally, Anglo player Alan Lochead released 
a book of arrangements of American marches, 
ragtime pieces, and popular songs entitled the 
All-American Concertina Album, in 2008. The 
arrangements are for 30 button Anglo concertina. 


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The Anglo-German Concertina 


The Concertina in North America 


' This article originally appeared in 2007 in The 

Concertina Library, It has 
been considerably modified and expanded. 
^ George Welsey Davis, Sketches of Butte, from 
Vigilante Days to Prohibition (Boston: Comhill 
Company, 1921), pp. 90-91. 
^ Randall C. Merris, "Instruction Manuals for the 
English, Anglo, and Duet Concertina: an Annotated 
Bibliography," The Free-Reed Journal 4 (2002), pp. 
85-1 18. The original publication and a regularly- 
updated online version are on the web at 
http ://w . 
* "Descriptive and Illustrated Catalogue," C. F. 
Zimmermann & Son, Manufacturers & Importers of 
and Dealers in All Kinds of Musical Instruments and 
General Musical Merchandise, No. 238 North Second 
Street, Philadelphia Pa., ca. 1880. 16 pp. Incidentally, 
Carl Zimmermann also played a key role in the 
development and popularization of the autoharp in the 
last decade of the 19th century. 
^ "The Wrecks of Newfoundland," Philadelphia 
Inquirer, March 6, 1910. 
^ "Newfoundland Wreckers," Ogden Standard 
Examiner (Utah), August 15, 1903. 
^ House, Annual Report of the Deputy Commissioner 
of the Review of Changes in the Bureau of Statistics, 
for Fiscal Year Ended June 30, 1869, U.S. Congress, 
January 1, 1870. 

^ House, Annual Report of the Director of the Bureau 

of the American Republics for the Year 1889, U.S. 

Congress, December 10, 1899. 

' House, Exports declared for the United States 

During the Fiscal Year Ended June 6, 1901, US 

Congress, January 1, 1902, p. 194. 

'° Randall C. Merris, "Instruction Manuals for the 

English, Anglo, and Duet Concertina: an Annotated 

Bibliography," The Free-Reed Journal 4 (2002), pp. 


John Townley, Concertina and Squeezebox, nos. 14 
and 15 (1987), p. 4. 

David Edward Hughes (1831-1900) later invented 
the telegraph printer, the carbon microphone, and the 
induction balance. For an account of his life see Dan 
Worrall, "David Edward Hughes, America's First 
Known Performing Concertinist and Anglo-American 
Inventor Extraordinaire," PICA [Papers of the 
International Concertina Association], 4, 2007, and an 
updated version of the same article at 
http :// 

Accounts of these early concerts may be found in 
the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. Randall Merris has 
included brief descriptions of many of these musicians 
in the Appendix to his article "Dutch Daly, Comedian 
and Concertinist," PICA [Papers of the International 
Concertina Association] 4 (2007). 

Alfred B. Sedgwick, Sedgwick's Complete System 
of Instruction for the Concertina (London: Levesque, 
Edmeades & Co., 1854), p. 1. 

Alfred B. Sedgwick, Sedgwick's New Method for 
the English Concertina (New York: S.T. Gordon 
Company, 1870), pp. 9-10. 

Alfred B. Sedgwick, Sedgwick's Improved and 
Complete Instructions for the German Concertina 
(1 865; reprnt Boston: Oliver Ditson Company, 1893), 
p. 2. 

" Brooklyn Daily Eagle, September 23, 1877, p. 4. 

Thomas Lea Southgate, English Music 1604-1904 
(London: Walter Scott Publishing Co,. Ltd, 1906), p. 
339. As quoted in Stuart Eydmann, The Life and 
Times of the Concertina: the adoption and usage of a 
novel musical instrument with particular ref erence to 
Scotland, (Ph.D. dissertation. The Open University, 
1995). Eydmann's complete dissertation is on the web 

"Robert W. Snyder," Kenneth T. Jackson, ed., The 
Encyclopedia of New York City (New Haven: Yale 
University Press, 1993) p. 1226. 

Connecticut Constitution, September 8, 1869. 
^' Weekly Telegraph (Macon, Georgia), August 23, 

Daily Herald (Biloxi, Mississippi), September 11, 


Oscar H. Lear, Brooklyn Daily Eagle, October 14, 

^ Daily News (Tacoma, Washington), August 3, 1897. 

"Morality of Museums," The Milwaukee Sentinel 
(Wisconsin), December 1, 1883. 
''^ "Some American impressions," Temple Bar, A 
London Magazine: vol. 81, 1887, p. 71. 

'The Speedy Concertina," The San Francisco Call, 
January 13, 1897. 

^ 'Twenty Drowned: Brick Barges Capsize in the 
Harlem River," Omaha World Herald (Nebraska), 
December 5, 1891. 

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, February 6, 1889, p. 6. 

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, May 9, 1859, p. 1 1. 
^' Brooklyn Daily Eagle, November 16, 1 880, p. 2. 

Philadelphia Inquirer, January 7, 1895. 

For an excellent treatment of these early tutors, see 
Randall C. Merris, "Instruction Manuals for the 
English, Anglo, and Duet Concertina: an Annotated 


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The Anglo-German Concertina 

Bibliography," The Free-Reed Journal 4 (2002), pp. 

85-1 18. The original publication and a regularly 

updated online version are on the web at 

http ://w WW .concertina, co m/merris . 

^ Elias Howe, Jr., Howe 's Eclectic School for the 

Concertina, new and enlarged edition (Boston: Elias 

Howe, 1879). In English and partly in German. 

Elias Howe, Jr., Howe 's Western German 
Concertina School (Boston: Elias Howe, 1879). 
Randall C. Merris has observed that two tutors by 
Howe, this one along with Howe's Eclectic School for 
the Concertina mentioned in the preceding note 21, 
were between them the direct source for 208 of the 
250 tunes in Paul de Ville, The Concertina and How 
to Play It (1905), and that in turn was the direct source 
for Bob Kail, The Best Concertina Method — Yet! 
^ Complete Catalogue of the Publications of Elias 
HoM'e (Hiram, Ohio: D. H. Beaman Company, ca. 

"A dining-room on the roof," The Quincy Daily 
//eraW (Massachusetts), August 19, 1886. 

"Brief Mention," Daily Evening Bulletin (San 
Francisco), September. 16, 1878. 
■'^ "Disguised Police Inspector's raid," The Evening 
World (Ne^ York), September. 10, 1903. 

"The Sea Voyage of the Brussels from Liverpool to 
New York," Brooklyn Daily Eagle, September 10, 
1880, p. 4. 

This photo is part of the online gallery at, a vendor of period 
photographs. It is accompanied by well-researched 
conjectures about the photograph and the youth whose 
image was captured. The website contains many other 
interesting period photographs of musicians. 

Report by William Passmore, as quoted by John 
Townley, Concertina and Squeezebox, numbers 14 
and 15 (1987), p. 4. 

"Grant! Northern Ohio Aroused!" The Daily 
Cleveland Herald (Ohio), October 9, 1 868. 

Chris Timson and Steve Jardine, "Musical 
Mormons — The Concertina Proves Invaluable!" 
Concertina World (newsletter of the International 
Concertina Association), No. 415 (1999), pp. 11-13. 
*^ Fred E. Woods, "Seagoing Saints," Ensign, 
September 2001. 

"Journal of John David McAllister,", IDS Church 
Archives, v. 4 (May 15, 1862), p. 6. As quoted in Fred 
E. Woods, "Seagoing Saints," Ensign, September 

Leonard J. Arrington, "LDS Saints in the Pioneer 
West," New Era, July 1982, p. 16. 



"Correspondence, The Missionaries," Salt Lake 
Daily Telegraph, May 22, 1867. 
^'^ "Party Honors Early Pioneers on Wednesday," 
Vernal Express (Utah), September 5, 1935 

John Phillips Meakin, Leaves of Truth; Utah and 
the Mormons (Salt Lake City, 1909), pp. 260-261. 
^' Florence Youngberg, ed.. Conquerors of the West: 
Stalwart Mormon Pioneers Vol 2. (USA: Agreka 
Books, 1999). A collection of histories compiled by 
The National Society for Sons of Utah Pioneers 

Chris Timson and Steve Jardine, "Musical 
Mormons — The Concertina Proves Invaluable!" 
Concertina World (newsletter of the International 
Concertina Association), No. 415 (1999), pp. 11-13. 

"Good Works for Bear Lake," Davis County 
Clipper (Utah), August 9, 1907. 
^* "Time of Their Lives, Indian War Veterans from 
Salt Lake and Davis Counties Had a Grand Time in 
Bountiful Today," Davis County Clipper (Utah), June 
16, 1911. 

"^'^".larvie Property on the Green River," State of Utah 
tourism website, 

Owen Wister, "In an Arizona Tavern," St. Paul 
Daily Globe, July 29, 1894. 

Owen Wister, The Jimmyjohn Boss and other 
stories (New York: Harper & Brothers Publishers, 
1900), pp. 55-56. 

News, Daily Central City Register (Colorado), June 
15, 1870. 

^ Hume Nisbet, Hunting for Gold, or Adventures in 
Klondyke (London: F. Whyte & Co., 1897), Chapter 

^ "Notes from the Goldfield Mining District," 

Phoenix Weekly Herald, January 13, 1898. 

Neill C. Wilson, Silver Stampede: the Career of 
Death Valley's Hell-camp, Panamint. (1937; repr. 
Freeport: Books for Libraries Press, 1971), p. 181. 

"Wanted, Merry Men in Camp," Eureka Reporter 
(Utah), March 9, 1906. 

^'^ George Wesley Davis, Sketches of Butte, from 
Vigilante Days to Prohibition (Boston: Comhill 
Company, 1921), pp. 90-91. 

"Dramatic," Brooklyn Daily Eagle, January 5, 1877, 
p. 3. 

* Edward Le Roy Rice, Monarchs of Minstrelsy, 
From Daddy Rice to Date (New York: Kenny 
Publishing Company, 1911), p. 182. 

New Orleans Times, September 2, 1875. 
^'^ Omaha World Herald (Nehiaska), August 10, 1892. 


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The Concertina in North America 

Grand Forks Herald (North Dakota), January 12, 

Randall C. Merris, "Dutch Daly, Comedian and 
Concertinist," PICA [Papers of the International 
Concertina Association] no. 4., 2007. 
™ Neil Wayne, Margaret Birley, and Robert Gaskins, 
"A Wheatstone Twelve-Sided 'Edeophone' 
Concertina with Pre-MacCann Chromatic Duet 
Fingering," The Free-Reed Journal 3 (2001), pp. 3- 
17, footnote 11. The original publication and an 
updated online version are on the web at; 
footnote 1 1 cited here has been revised with new 
information in the online version after the original 

This photograph was kindly made available by 
Stefan Grossman's Guitar Workshop of Sparta, New 
Jersey; it was purchased in an eBay auction. 

"A tin whistle and concertina struggle," Fort Wayne 
Morning Journal-Gazette, May 29, 1904. 
" "A nocturne," Puck, August 20, 1879, no. 128. 

"Squeezing Out Music: A Good Story About the 
President — ^His Majesty Likened to a Concertina," 
Rolla New Era (Missouri), June 23, 1888, p. 2. 
" "Ruth Bryan Owen mixes music and politics with a 
wheezy concertina," Lincoln Star (Nebraska), July 22, 

"Refusal to go along with hate," Life Magazine, 
October 14, 1966, p. 109. 

Caroline Kennedy, ed.. Profiles in Courage for Our 
Time, (New York: Hyperion, 2003), p. 51. 

"Pretty Rita's Nice Mr. Cohen," Albuquerque 
Journal, December 12, 1935. 
™ "The City of Atlanta," Harpers New Monthly 
Magazine, vol. 60 (1879), pp. 42-43. 

See, for example, Kevin Donleavy, Strings of Life: 
Conversations with Old Time Musicians from Virginia 
and North Carolina (Blacksburg: Pocahontas Press, 

"Among Negro Performers," The Colored American 
(Washington D.C.), August. 11, 1900, p. 11. 

Emmett J. Scott, Scott 's Official History of the 
American Negro in the World War (Washington: The 
Negro Historical Publishing Company, 1919), Chapter 

"RC Brew, History of Zydeco," RC Brew 's Jook 
Joint, online at 


Jared Snyder, "Squeezebox: The Legacy of the 
Afro-Mississippi Accordionists," BlackMusic 
Research Journal 17, no. 1 (1997), pp. 37-57. 

E.V. Eskesen, 'A Dane who came and stayed: why 
and how I became an American, " Walter Hines Page 
and Arthur Wilson Page, eds. The World's Work: a 
history of our time,, Vol 47 (Garden City: Doubleday, 
Page & Co., 1921), p. 380. 

"Scenes of Grief and Joy: Emigrants Reception at 
the New York Boarding Houses," Dallas Morning 
News (Texas), November 15, 1891. 

"The Irish Musical Union," Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 
December 23, 1894, p. 21. 

Philadelphia Inquirer, August 2, 1880. 

"Famous New York Men," Kansas City Star 
(Missouri), February 4, 1888. 
'° James P. Leary, 'The German Concertina in the 
Upper Midwest,", Philip Bohlman and Otto Holzapfel, 
eds.. Land Without Nightingales: Music in the Making 
of German-America (Madison: University of 
Wisconsin Press, 2002), Chapter 8. 
^' Photo on Chris Timson's Concertina FAQ website, Timson obtained the 
photo and the information from New England 
musician Tony Barrand. 

Philadelphia Inquirer, April 26, 1896. 

"A Little Minstrel," Daily Journal and Tribune 
(Tennessee), March 3, 1893. 

A. Barclay Walker, The Cruise of the Esquimaux, 
Steam Whaler, to Davis Straits and Baffin Bay, April- 
October, 1899 (Liverpool: Liverpool Printing and 
Stationery Company Ltd., , 1906). From his diary. 

Henry Wood Elliott, Our Arctic Province: Alaska 
and the Seal Islands (New York: Charles Scribner's 
Sons, 1886), pp. IIA-IIS, quoted in "Music Hath 
Charms," San Jose Mercury-News (California), May 
26, 1887. 

Libby Beaman, 1879 diary, excerpts from which are 

online at 

West Coast Indian Agency report of December 7 
1887: in Canadian Parliament, Sessional Papers, vol. 
5 (1887), p. 90. 

Sir Henry Solomon Wellcome, 1887, The story of 
Metlakahtla (London: Saxon & Co., 1887), p. 72. 

Metis Resource Centre, 

James Willard Schultz, My Life as an Indian: the 
Stoiy of a Red Woman and a White Man in the Lodges 
(London: James Murray, 1907), p. 14. 

"Booth Again Visits Omaha," Omaha World 
Herald (Nebraska), February 6, 1893. 


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The Anglo-German Concertina 

Diane Winton, "All the World's a Stage: The 
Performed Religion of the Salvation Army, 1880- 
1920," Stewart M. Hoover and Lynn Schofield Clark, 
eds.. Practicing Religion in the Age of the Media 
(New York: Columbia University Press, 2002), p. 1 13. 
Paraphrased by Stephen Chambers in an online 
posting entitled "Salvation Army Bands," September, 

"Satan Scored," Brooklyn Daily Eagle, December 
15 1888, p. 1. 

"Rapid Transit Religion," Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 
June 3, 1897. 

105 "■pjjg Salvationists," Los Angeles Times, April 27, 
1890, p. 3. 

"Salvationists in New York," Ogden Standard 
Examiner (Utah), May 28, 1897. 

'The Anglo-German Concertina," The Field 
Officer (London: Salvation Army, 1909), p. 349. 
'°*Ibid., p. 349. 

"Boyhood's music makers," The New York 
7>/6?/«e, March 3 1 , 1901, supplement, p. 1. 
^'^ "Walt Mason, Mine Own," Bellevue News 
Z)e?wocra/ (Washington), December 11, 1914. 

Lawrence Reeves, in an online posting entitled 
"Multi-reeded 20 button instrument — who played 
them?" December 16, 2006, Reeves's 
grandmother, the anglo player, was Dora Lamson (b. 

Edna Barney's web page at 

"At the Theatres," Charlotte Observer (North 
Carolina), May 12, 1921. 
^^"^ Dallas Morning News, September 3, 1944. 

Dallas Morning News, April 9, 1951. 

Carl Zimmerman, who operated a music shop in 
Philadelphia in the late nineteenth century, built large 
Carlsfeld concertinas there, but imported German and 
Anglo-German models. 

Patrick Sky, Preface to Ryan 's Mammoth 
Collection of 1050 Reels and Jigs, Pacific: Mel Bay 
Publications, 1995), p. 15. 

See Patrick Sky, Preface to Ryan 's Mammoth 
Collection of 1050 Reels and Jigs, Pacific: Mel Bay 
Publications, 1995). Explanatory notes on the 
meanings of the titles of both the American and 
Irish/Scottish tune titles have been compiled in 
Another account is found at the Fiddler 's Companion 
website at 

Paul de Grae, Ryan 's Mammoth Collection and the 
O Neill Collections: published online (2005) at 


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Chapter 10. Transcriptions: Playing Styles and Techniques 
from Early Players 

[Mary Houlihan] was supposed to have been the queen of 
[the older players here]. It was like going to high school. 
When I graduated from home I went to her and got a 
good bit of instruction from her. She learnt the 
double style of playing from a man by the name of 
Patrick Murphy from Frure . . . 'Twas he showed her the 
double style of goin ' across the keys, and she had it very good. 
She had a beautiful concertina, wherever in the name of God 
she got it, I don 't know. There was a great sound in it . 
T was a high class German concertina. 

—John Kelly, County Clare Ireland, 1986^ 


This chapter contains transcriptions of 
twenty-eight tunes taken from the playing of 
twenty-three older generation concertina players 
from England, Ireland, Australia, and South 
Africa. All except two of the players were active 
well before the Second World War, in the latter 
part of the heyday of the instrument, and a few 
began their playing days in the late nineteenth 
century. No such vintage recordings were found 
of German system concertina players in North 
America or New Zealand. The transcriptions are 
intended to document the styles and techniques 
used by some of these old-time players. 

A break with the past 

Current playing techniques are but 
superficially similar to those of earlier 
generations. In the middle and late twentieth 
century, a profound, worldwide, change swept 
through all remaining German- and Anglo - 
German playing populations of European 
heritage. From their inception, these concertinas 
had been primarily used to play for dancing, 
which in the instrument's heyday consisted 
mainly of ballroom dances such as quadrilles (set 
dances), polkas, waltzes, and schottisches. Those 

dances went out of fashion in most places — and 
the Anglo-German concertina along with them — 
in the early twentieth century. In the late 
twentieth centuiy the concertina enjoyed a 
renewal of interest as part of a nearly global folk 
and "traditional" music revival, and during that 
revival it began to be used primarily for 
listening — at competitions, pub sessions, 
festivals, and concerts. This change in usage has 
had a far-reaching effect on the way the 
instrument is played. In Ireland, a complexly 
ornamented style arose that was profoundly 
different from the relatively unembeUished, 
tightly rhythmic concertina music of earlier 
generations. In late twentieth century England, 
concertina players moved to listening (and of 
course playing) venues such as pub sessions and 
folk clubs, except for those active in morris sides. 
In the general absence of surviving earlier players 
there during the traditional music revival, EngMsh 
playing styles were very strongly affected by the 
oom-pah chording of EngUsh melodeon players, 
and a new, thoroughly chorded style developed 
that has moved far beyond that of William 
Kimber. In South Africa, where the old ballroom 
dancing likewise waned, players were at this time 
thoroughly absorbing modern, heavily chromatic 
musical styles and fitting them, as if parts of a 
puzzle, to their extended keyboard Anglos. They 
developed a very fluid style of play with a 


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The Anglo-German Concertina 

minimal number of bellows changes that, among 
some players, has approached the flowing sound 
of a piano accordion. So strongly compelling 
were these various new styles that in Australia, 
where a strong push was made to recreate the 
earlier rural ("bush") dances, new concertina 
players tended to follow the developing revival 
styles of Msh and English players rather than 
recreate those of the early Australian players, 
who played in a much simpler fashion. 

Playing for house dances: octaves 

The early players whose music has been 
transcribed here learned their craft long before 
the development of these new revival playing 
styles. It is abundantly clear from the 
transcriptions as well as from the documentation 
presented in previous chapters that the dominant 
playing technique used in the era of rural house 
dances in h^eland, England, Australia, and South 
Africa was that of playing in octaves, usually in 
the key of C. This is not to say that single-note, 
along-the-row playing was not also commonly 
present, but it seems not to have been the favored 
style among those who played for house dances . 
Octave playing had much to recommend it as an 
accompaniment for house dances. Dancing was 
indeed a noisy endeavor when hobnail boots 
struck the flagstone or earthen floor in small 
rooms crowded with dancers, and in the late 
nineteenth century the music for these dances 
was often provided by a lone concertina or fiddle 
player. There were no electronic sound 
amplification systems, and playing in octaves 
allowed a doubling of volume without adding 
much complexity. Simplicity was exceedingly 
important, because that concertina player often 
played on his own all night — literally from dusk 
to dawn. Fatigue was a very real factor. 
Moreover, interviews with players of the era 
show that the dancers (the customers) were very 
particular about the rhythm of the music 
played — anything too flowery or ornate that 
might detract from the beat was not to their 

It seems extraordinary that the octave 
technique — which after all is less intuitive than 

along-the-row playing, which was not frequently 
treated in period tutors, and which is nearly 
absent among today's players — ^became a 
predominant technique shared by concertina 
players scattered on three continents. Such a 
conclusion, however, is inescapable after 
examining the styles used by the earliest or oldest 
recorded players in these four countries. It 
demonstrates the power of convergent evolution, 
where the needs of players of the old-time house 
or shed dances for volume, rhythmic accuracy 
and stamina — along with similar needs of those 
who played for street processions in the Salvation 
Army or of morris dancers in the village streets 
of Lancashire — trumped nearly everything else. 

Playing in octaves: tlie basics 

Although some musicians played in octaves 
only on a single row (see Chapters 3 and 7), most 
accomplished octave players used both rows to 
play a tune, which is here called a two-row 
octave technique. For players interested in 
learning this technique (referred to by John Kelly 
in the introductory quote to this chapter as "the 
double style of goin' across the rows"), the 
following may be of use. A button numbering 
scheme for the basic Anglo-German concertina is 
shown in Figure 1. For the purposes of this 
discussion, the top row wiU be neglected; most of 
the recorded players typically used only two 

The basic two-row octave scale in the key of 

C is illustrated in Figure 2. In the C scale, the 
first four notes {do-re-mi-fa) are played on the C 
row, with the right hand playing the upper octave 
while the left plays the lower octave. For the last 
four notes (so-la-ti-do), both hands drop down to 
the G row. It will be seen that as the fingers move 
up the keyboard from button to button, the 
fingers on the right hand change buttons at a 
different place in the scale than do the fingers on 
the left hand. This takes some practice to execute 
proficiently, but once learned it becomes second 
nature. It will be noted that it is quite easy to 
continue to play the so-la on the C row rather 
than the G row, and it is also possible to play the 
last two notes (ti-do) in octaves on the C row. 


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1 la 1 2a 1 3a | 

Left Hand 

fill im [sTi nn fsTi 

Right Hand 

Figure 1 . Button numbering convention, three-row Anglo-German concertina. Most early players had only two-row 

instruments, which consisted of the bottom tw o rows shown here On a two-row C/G concertina, the C row is the middle row 
(buttons 1-5). and Ihe G low is the bottom (inside) row (buttons 6-10). 

Right Hand 

Left Hand 

-C row 1 G row— 

P D 
1 2 

P D 
3 3 


P D 
2 3 

P D 

6 7 

P D 
4 4 

P D 
8 8 

P D 
7 8 

P D 
9 9 

Figure 2. The basic cross-row octave scale in C. The numbers represent the buttons on the keyboard in the previous figure, 
on the right (upper staff) and left (lower), respectively. The two hands play in unison. P = Press, D = Draw. Buttons are 
numbered as in Figure 1. 


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The Anglo-German Concertina 

However, the fingering changes necessary to play 
the latter two notes on the C row are quite 
awkward, which is why the two-row octave 
technique was developed — it is much easier to 
move down to the G row to play them. Some 
players will stay on the C row for an entire 
tune — single-row octave players — ^but in that 
case, either a) the tune does not use a high-end ti- 
do in its range of notes, or b) the one-row player 
will simply eliminate the upper octave notes in 
the high part of the tune. A similar issue presents 
itself in the lower range. The tune included here 
from the playing of Margaret Crehan, Sweet 
Biddy Daly, is an example of such a single-row 
octave tune, and here she eliminated the lower 
octave notes in a troublesome lower passage. 
Englishman Ellis Marshall's Cross Morris and 
Australian Con Klippel's Manchester Galop are 
other examples of single-row octave tunes, each 
of them keyed in C. 

Figure 3 shows all the notes available on a 
two-row C/G concertina for playing the diatonic 
scale of C major in octaves, as well as their 
suggested fingering for a two -row instrument. At 
the extreme lower and upper ends, things become 
difficult. Skilled players like Dooley Chapman 
would sometimes jump up a full octave in the 
playing of the melody when a run of notes 
descended into the troublesome parts of the lower 
range, or would eliminate the upper octave when 
such difficulties presented themselves. 

Similarly, Figure 4 shows all notes available 
for the diatonic scale of G in octaves. It is quite 
similar to that for the C range (Figure 3), with the 
exception of the substitution of the F#. Figure 4 
shows that two complete octaves of the G scale 
may be played in the octave style without a great 
deal of difficulty. Bernard O'SuUivan's I Have a 
Bonnet Trimmed with Blue is a superbly simple 
tune played in G in a two-row octave style. Most 
octave players, however, preferred to play in the 
key of C, as these transcriptions show. 

Stylistic differences among octave players 

Once the needs of the dance have dictated the use 
of an octave technique, there is still much room 
for stylistic differences among various 
individuals and among various nationalities of 
players. Both Irish and Australian players tended 
to play simply — just the melody notes played in 
octaves. Dooley Chapman's Old Dan Tucker, for 
example, is executed quite similarly to 
O'SuUivan's / Have a Bonnet Trimmed with 
Blue, as is Jim Harrison's Princess Polka. Scan 
Tester's Schottische and his song tune Roamin' 
in the Gloamin' are similarly straightforward, 
except for an occasional phrase-ending C chord. 

Significant differences and variations 
emerge among players who used chords. One 
way in which William Kimber's playing is 
distinctive is in his placement of added emphasis 
on the beat by dropping out those notes of the 
lower octave (left hand) that occur on the offbeat; 
this technique is very clear in Bacca Pipes, a 
morris jig. At first glance, this tune does not 
resemble the full octave playing of a Bernard 
O' Sullivan or a Dooley Chapman, where nearly 
every note is played in octaves. However a close 
inspection shows that most of these downbeats 
contain partial chords on the left hand, and in 
nearly every one of these there is a lower octave 
note. These partial chords further emphasize the 
beat for the dancers, helping to cut through the 
din of crowd noise and morris bells. Most of the 
chords are reasonably straightforward and 
represent the addition of a third interval either up 
or down from the lower octave note (e.g., 
measures 17-32 of Bacca Pipes). Kimber's basic 
playing technique was to move his left hand more 
or less in parallel to his right, in two-row octave 
fashion, adding octaves and partial chords only 
when he needed them to accentuate the rhythm or 
when it otherwise added musical interest. 
Infrequently, he played a partial chord composed 
of only a third and fifth interval, leaving out the 
fiindamental octave note (as in measure 1 at the 
beginning of the A part; compare that with the 
repeated measure 9 in the A part the second time 


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Right Hand 

Left Hand 


D D 
5 2 

P D 

3 3 

P D 
4 4 

P D 
g 8 

P D 

9 9 

P D 
5 5 


D 9 

1 12 2 3 

^ - 1 * r 

6 7 

r r 

7 8 . 

1 — « — '- 


Figure 3. An extended range two-row octave scale in C, showing all the notes available to be played 
in octaves on a Jeffries-style two-row concertina. It will be noted that the uppermost and lowermost 
parts of the range in the C octave are slightly awkward in fingering. 

Right Hand 

Left Hand 


D P D P D 

1 I 2 2 

P D 

D P 

P D 6 9 

P D g 9 10 6 

s - . it- r 


D D 

P D 

P D 

4 7 

P o 

S K 

p n p n 

'J <) 5 5 

Figure 4. A similar extended range two-row octave scale in G, showing all the notes available to be 
played in octaves on a Jeffries-style two-row concertina. It will be noted that the range of notes is 
similar as for C, as the only major difference is the substitution of the F#. 

Nearly all of Kimber's chords are played on 
the left hand, which is very typical of players in 
England to the present day. Contrast that with 
South African Han Bodenstein's Settees. Most of 
the playing is straightforward in its use of 
octaves, but Bodenstein adds an occasional chord 
played on the right hand a third interval down 
from the upper octave note (e.g., measures 7,17, 
and 25). His countryman Chris Chomse, who 
also played almost entirely in octaves, 
occasionally added some rather unusual 
dissonant chords fashioned by adding a note a 
second interval down from the upper octave note 

(e.g., measures 12 and 13 of Noodshulp Polka). 
These right-hand chords impart a sound that is 
utterly unlike Kimber's, and sounds vaguely 
"continental" in its harmony. 

Irish along-the-row players 

A significant exception to a general global 
tendency toward octave playing in the "old days" 
is seen in a middle generation of Irish players — 
they were a generation younger than octave 
players hke Margaret Crehan, but still played 
well before the traditional music revival of the 


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The Anglo-German Concertina 

late twentieth century. It is no doubt tme that a 
certain amount of along-the-row playing 
occurred in Ireland from the very beginning; 
certainly William MuUaly played in that manner. 
Documents and interviews of early players show 
that there was a generational shift from mostly 
playing using an octave technique to mostly 
playing in single notes, along-the-row. This shift 
occurred in the 1920s and 1930s (see Chapter 3) 
between an earlier generation that included 
octave players Margaret Crehan and the mothers 
of players like John Kelly and Solus Lillis, and 
the subsequent generation that included 
Margaret's son Junior Crehan, John Kelly, and 
Solus Lillis, each of whom played for the most 
part along-the-row. A primary reason for this 
movement toward along-the-row playing in 
Ireland seems to have been a need by concertina 
players to accommodate the keys of other 
instruments as they began to play in larger groups 
in the post-house-dance era of ceili bands and 
public dance halls. The old octave playing was 
typically done in the key of C. If one played 
singly and along the inside (G) row, not only 
could one play in G but also in the key of D, the 
second most common key after G in Irish music 
today. This could be accomplished by 
occasionally reaching off of the G row for the 
required extra sharp. Few octave players would 
ever attempt a tune in the key of D. 

Along-the-row playing has other advantages 
for Irish players in regard to the needs of the reel, 
a pre-nineteenth-century dance form not common 
in the dancing repertoires of the other three 
countries. The reel typically requires greater 
speed than does a polka or a schottische. For two- 
row octave players, where each hand plays the 
same melody largely independently of the other 
hand, the entire melody must be played by only 
four fingers, which are kept very busy. But by 
plajdng singly, one note at a time and along one 
row, one now has eight fingers available to play 
the melody as the tune runs up and down through 
its compass of notes on both sides of the 
concertina. Some along-the-row players 
tended to stick to just one row during a tune, just 
as some octave players did. William Mullaly is 
an example of a single-row along-the-row player. 

as was discussed in Chapter 3; his version of 
Tory Island Reel is included below. Other 
examples of tunes played in that manner include 
much of John Kelly's playing (including his 
version of The Crooked Road to Dublin, included 
below) as well as that of the well-known Clare 
player Chris Droney today. 

Other players tended to use a two-row 
along-the-row technique, playing one phrase on 
the C row and the next on the G as befitted the 
needs of each individual phrase. Elizabeth Crotty 
(her version of The Wind that Shakes the Barley 
is included below), Packie Russell {The Heathery 
Breeze), and Michael Doyle {The Mount Phoebus 
Hunt) are fine examples of two-row along-the 
row players. By about the 1930s, most of the 
younger Irish players — their numbers were then 
in steep decline — seem to have switched to 
playing along-the-row, either along the G row or 
in a two-row style, because of the relative ease of 
playing with other musicians in keys like D (and 
less commonly, A and F) or the relative ease of 
playing at increasingly faster tempos, or both. 

Another issue with a rapid-fire Irish reel is 
the occurrence of scale runs, which are not 
uncommon in an old, pre-concertina repertoire 
that was mostly written by fiddle, flute and pipe 
players who had no difficulty playing such runs. 
When playing along the row, each successive 
note in the diatonic scale entails a change in 
bellows direction. Such frequent changes in 
direction when playing very rapidly were 
relatively difficult to execute in the days of 
wheezy German concertinas, which had very air- 
inefficient bellows and reeds. Mrs. Crotty began 
her playing days on such a German concertina, as 
did most of those in her generation. A skillfiil 
player like her would substitute third- and fifth- 
interval jumps for some of the successive notes in 
scale runs. This would allow such passages to be 
played more easily, with fewer changes in 
bellows direction. Elizabeth Crotty' s Tlie Wind 
That Shakes the Barley is a superb example of 
such tune modification, and her playing of that 
tune is discussed in some detail in Chapter 3. 
Today, of course, most Irish players use 
improved, much more air-efficient Anglo- 
German concertinas; Chris Droney plays scale 


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runs along the row at reel tempo without 
difficulty, for example. Players of a still-younger 
generation might select a note fi"om another row 
to substitute for alternate notes in scale runs, 
allowing otherwise difficult passages to be 
played fluidly all in one direction. The unique 
tune versions of the old German-concertina 
players were often created in response to the 
peculiarities of their instrument, and such 
versions are all but gone today. 

Bridging the gaps, into the future 

A few very special players formed essential 
bridges between the older styles of the 
concertina's heyday and those of the modem 
"revival" era of today, thus helping the 
instrument survive during rapidly changing 
musical and cultural times by forging new ways 
of playing it. One such "bridge" player was 
Irishman Paddy Murphy (his version of the old 
minstrel tune TTte Dawn is included below). 
During his prime playing years, the definition of 
success for a musician shifted from playing well 
for dancers to playing for listeners in a new 
world of competitions, festivals, and pub 
sessions. Murphy began to search for ornaments 
from other instruments — cuts, rolls, et cetera — to 
adapt to the concertina, which heretofore had 
been played without much ornamentation beyond 
octaves and the occasional triplet (Chapter 3). He 
also began to smooth out fingering and bellows 
changes when playing rapidly by searching for 
alternative scales and employing increased 
amounts of cross-row fingering. The resultant 
increase in "musicaUty" resonated with his 
pupils — Noel Hill chief among them — and they 
spread the new style to thousands of new players 
in Ireland and abroad. The concertina as played 
today in Ireland has a greatly different sound than 
that played only a generation ago. It is also 
perhaps true that most young concertina players 
of this new style — certainly most of those outside 
of Clare — have never played for a dance; the 
session is now king. 

Another bridge player was Faan Harris of 
South Africa. He lived at a time when playing for 
dancing shifted from rural house dances with one 

or two musicians to large dance halls with larger 
groups of musicians, as was the situation in 
Ireland. In this early-twentieth- century period 
the Boer concertina continued as the lead 
instrument in sizeable dance bands where the role 
of the other musicians was primarily to provide 
backup rhythm to the concertina (see Chapter 5). 
This development and concurrent changes in 
global popular music — to more elaborately 
chromatic melodies and blues-style complex 
chords — meant that avid Boer players were 
dropping the old two-row twenty-button German 
instruments and picking up extended-keyboard 
Wheatstone Anglos of thirty-eight and more 
buttons. Some of Harris's tunes were playable on 
two rows {Soiitpansberg Settees), but others 
required all three rows and were both richly 
chromatic and highly chorded (such as Wals Tant 
Sannie). Harris was a player who helped lead the 
way into the abrupt change to twentieth-century 
musical fashions. Today Boer concertina players 
as a group are more modem in their approach to 
music, and in their choice of musical material, 
than the Anglo players of any other country. It is 
not without reason that many Boer players 
consider Faan Harris one of the finest players 
who ever lived. It is a pity that his recordings are 
not more easily available outside of South Africa. 

That bridging role can be crucial. In most of 
the rest of the world, both German and Anglo- 
German concertinas were cast aside as popular 
music became more chromatic and as dances 
changed nearly overnight from schottisches, 
quadrilles, and polkas to fox trots, the Black 
Bottom, and the Charleston. This gulf between 
past and present is enormous; nineteenth-century 
concertina players had no reason to label their 
music "traditional," as they merely played 
whatever was the current fashion. The inability of 
most players to bridge the gap between old 
diatonic musical forms and the chromatic music 
of the early twentieth century (see discussion 
accompanying Figure 98 in Chapter 2) doomed 
the Anglo concertina to the sidelines in aU 
modern musical roles except as a niche 
instmment for "traditional" music — everywhere 
but in South Africa, where innovative players 
Uke Faan Harris made all the difference. In 


Copy rig hied material 

The Anglo-German Concertina 

America and New Zealand, and in most of 
England, Ireland, and Australia, the Anglo- 
German concertina and button accordion — once 
the kings of popular music around the globe — 
were replaced overnight by the more 
chromatically conversant ukulele and guitar. In 
South Africa, the concertina retained its lead role 
in dance bands well into the middle of the 
twentieth century. 

In England, Fred Kilroy was very nearly 
such a bridge player. like Faan Harris he 
embraced modem chromatic tunes. His march 
Blaze Away, included in these transcriptions, 
shows him to be a master of such chromatic 
playing, which required an extended keyboard 
instrument of three and more rows. 
Unfortunately, Kilroy seems to have come along 
a little too late or went otherwise unnoticed in his 
time. Of modern players only a very few English 
Anglo players have traveled that path, in contrast 
to the larger numbers among the Boers in South 
Africa who did. With the exception of a few 
players like Harry Scurfield and the late Andrew 
Blakeney-Edwards, most English dance music 
played on the Anglo concertina is still 
predominantly diatonic and "traditional." 

Much more influential a bridge in England 
was Wilham Kimber (1872-1961), although he 
did not live to see the fuU bloom of the 1970s 
revival. His recordings were very influential and 
his simple, straightforward system of chording 
seems to have been somewhat unique. As we 
have seen, he did not slavishly adhere to octaves, 
but experimented. Double Lead Through, a 
country dance tune, shows the addition of 
occasional left hand bass-note -and-chord pairs as 
in measures 4 and 8. Not usually a feature of his 
playing, these oom-pahs became a regular feature 
of revival playing in the 1970s, when in absence 
of a living Kimber most revival Anglo players 
turned to melodeon players for inspiration. 
Kimber, however, by virtue of his separation of 
right hand melody and left hand chords, was the 
bridge. No other early English player who was 
recorded (EUis Marshall, Scan Tester, Fred 
Kilroy, for example) seems to have played in 
quite that manner. 

Of course, England is not the only country 
whose Anglo concertina players have kept to a 
traditional and diatonic repertoire. To a great 
extent Irish traditional music is also mostly 
diatonic, and yet it is experiencing a breathtaking 
global boom. In South Africa, there has been a 
recent, small countermovement of some players 
turning back to the two-row diatonic 
boerekonsertina of their ancestors, thereby 
rejecting many of the chromatic trappings of 
modernity (Chapter 5). The tectonic shift in 
musical styles that occurred at the beginning of 
the twentieth century is still making ripples and 
counter-ripples in acoustical music a century 

Beyond the retro boerekonsertina 
movement, however, one senses that the older 
octave style is essentially gone, the victim of a 
movement away from the dances that it 
supported. The demands of listening greatly 
favor the graceful ornaments of new Irish 
concertina styles; the rhythmic, jaunty, oom-pah 
chords of the English Anglo players; or the 
smoothly chromatic tunes of the modernist 
Boers. A glimmer of hope for the survival of 
octave playing Ues in the revival of old ballroom 
dances in Australia, where a small but significant 
movement exists to play for them in a manner in 
keeping with the old days of those colonial 
dances — with small groups of acoustic 
musicians playing for period-appropriate dance 
forms Uke the schottische, varsoviana, polka, 
quadrille, and waltz (Chapter 7). It is in such 
settings that the old styles could still carve out a 
viable niche today. 


^ John Kelly, as interviewed by Gearoid 6 
hAllmhurain, The Concertina in the Traditional Music 
of Clare (PhD thesis. Queen's University Belfast, 
1990), p. 109. 


Copy rig hied material 


List of Transcriptions 

Note: for further descriptions of each player and his or her styles and techniques, see the corresponding 
chapter in the text for that country, where each of these tunes is discussed. 

England (Chapter 2) 

William Kimber 

Bacca Pipes (morris dance) 

VV llllClili JX.lillUd 

Drtuhli* 1 pnri 1 'hi'/~ino'h ^f*oiinlT\^ HntiPf*'^ 

ocun lasiar j ocnoiiiscrit: (^sciiouibciiej 

IvULiiillil III Irit^ VJltJClf/tlfl V^iilUbi^ lld.1 1 aUll^^ 

THfA H 1 1 T*r\ \ T 

Pllic A/Tarcliflll 
Jjfllla iVlcUallall 

^^v/^w A^/^vwiv {tmrwY^c Hciti/^^^'^ 
\^rUtStS iviurritS ^iiiuiiia kioxvlg) 

Ti*o1qyiH rr^lianfAi* W 
irciallil ^^liapicF j) 

Margaret "Baby" Crehan 

Sweet Biddy Daly (jig) 

Bernard 0' Sullivan 

I Have a Bonnet Trimmed with Blue (polka) 

William Mullaly 

The Tory Island Reel 

John Kelly 

The Crooked Road to Dublin (reel) 

Michael Doyle 

The Mount Phoebus Hunt (hornpipe) 

Elizabeth Crotty 

The Wind That Shakes the Barley (reel) 

Packie Russell 

The Heathery Breeze (reel) 

Paddy Murphy 

The Dawn (reel) 

South Africa (Chapters 5 and 6) 

Hans Bodenstein Settees (Boer schottische) 

Chris Chomse Noodshulp Polka 

Faan Harris Soutpansberg Settees (Boer schottische) 

Faan Harris Wals van Tant Sannie (Boer waltz) 

Jonas Mate Mammolikoane (Sotho song) 

John Bambata U Tugela (Zulu walking song) 

Australia (Chapter 7) 

Fred Holland The Mudgee Schottisch (schottische) 

Clem O'Neal Varsoviana (varsovienne) 

Dooley Chapman Lancers Tune (set dance) 

Dooley Chapman Old Dan Tucker (minstrel tune) 

Con Klippel Manchester Galop (galop) 

Jim Harrison Princess Polka (polka) 

Jim Harrison Killaloo (comic Irish song) 

Charlie Ordish Kelvin Grove (polka) 


Copy rig hied material 

The Anglo-German Concertina 

McMiis Deuce 

Bacca Pipes 

As Played by William Kimbci 
Transcribed for CG Anglo by Dan Woriall 

i! f ■! I I ^ If 





:= :|r 











4f. f ^ i F^Fnp^t^ I f M^' ^ 










Copy rig hied material 


Double Lead Through 


Country Dance Tune 

As Played by William Kimlx;r 
I ranscrilied lor Cd Anglo by Dan Worrall 



i | f F ^ I LJ 

^ ' r 




, r e r I . r 








22 23 2« 25 

■ * 1»—m 

—m — 0 m- 

. u 

I- . 


^ — ^- 



t — ^ 




Copy rig hied material 

The Anglo-German Concertina 

Scan Tester's Schottische 


As Played by Scan Tester 
Transcribed for CG Anglo by Dan Worrall 


y _ — 

f — ^ 

r p 


y \ 


r p 





r ■ p 


p 1 




r* ^ 

* >^ . 




• • 


- — ^ 

^ p • . 


P 1 

p- - 

r — 

\ ^ 

-p — 


p- - 






• — 


IP • 


-m — 



• — 




m- P\ 



? — 

p — ' 



9 L 


r- » 

_ P 




p-= — 


p- - 




-p — 


p- - 

• — 1 





Copyrighied maiBfiai 


Roamin' in the Gloamin' 


Music Hall Song, As Played by Scan Lester 

ComposedbyHany Lauder, 1911 Tianscribed f<»r CG Aisglo by Dan Worrall 

— p-l 



|>--r- ---.g 

3 15 

f~~f — r ^ -*"r Hr r 1 


f L 1 


* * 1 

> 10 11 

, • J . , , 1 ^ 


L > i 

W 1 "5 


p" 1 

^ ' f t"h'f f f i^rTr' ' r 

14 15 16 

-f — 


1 . 1 > - - 

w w 



» — 


» — J_ 




S — '-^ 



Copy rig hied material 

The Anglo-German Concertina 


American Maich and Two-Stqi, Parts A and B 
Composed by Abe Holzmaim, 1901 

Blaze Away 

As pla}red by Fred Kilroy 
Tninscribed far CG Anglo hy I>an Wonall 

^ m 


6 7 

L L 


-s • 


9 10 


III III! ll 4 1 







* — w 


#^ [— 

~ — )^--^* — 



f 1 

r ^ 



V r . 



r ^ 



■ — 

1 ' r •' 





■r -r -r ||f I^j: 






im — * * 1* bi» — 



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F - 


F — 1 

M it 

— • — 

-]•-] — . 













. 112. 
■f — * — T~~*~ 





Copy rig hied material 


Cross Morris 

The Anglo-German Concertina 

Sweet Biddy Daly 

Etouble Jig 

As Played by Margaret Crehan 
Tiansoiibed for CG Anglo by Dan Wonall 



» ■ 



» — 







I" — 1 

• — 

* — 

• — 



f 1 

p — 

p — 

' — 

• — 




■ < * 



• — 










-m. — «- 






Copy rig hied material 


I Have a Bonnet 
Trimmed With Blue 


As Played by Bernard O'Sulivan and Tommy McMahon 
Transcribed for CO Anglo by Dm Worrall 




0- H 


• — 

0 — 1 

• — '- 

-• — 

• — '- 

-m- ■ 


r — *l 










» ■' 


Copy rig hied material 

The Anglo-German Concertina 

Tory Island Reel 


As Played by William Mullaly 
Modified for GD Aiiglo from transcription by Jackie Small 

3 4 

p I r Jm - 







* — 

« — 

-r — 






Copyrighted malBfi^l 


The Crooked Road to Dublin 


As Played by John Kelly 
Transcribed for CG Anglo by Dan WoEidl 


^ '>{j ' [j \ 'i'i'^^-' I Lf [J Lf [_r 

, 3 
— d — 

- — \ — . 3-^- — i r";- — ^ — 

'•'1 ' u w 1;^^'^'^=^ 

r p 



4-4 # # 

vt * ■ ■ 

* r * * 1 .» r 

_[-- — ' — ' 1 

0 1 

'-^ ' f 0. * r r ' "U 1 ' ' ' — 

u i u.^ u — ' ^-^ u uT ' 


m r T' m f 

*—- 0 

0 f- 

15 16 17 


Copy rig hied material 

The Anglo-German Concertina 

The Mount Phoebus Hunt 


As Played bv Michael Doyle 
Transcribed for CCi Anglo by Dun Womill 







' 3 







f' 0 

1 ^1 r '^uU\ ^ \ 

3 ' 


^-^ m — ^-i ' ^- 


0 ■ 



* ■ 




w — L 




Copyrighted malBfi^l 


The Wind That 
Shakes the Barley 


As Played by Elizabeth Crotty 
Transcryjed for CG Anglo by Etan Wonall 



' r • • 

• • • 

• . - . * 

ij' r LTF lf 


J" r f r 


• ■ f f 


14 17 

U ^ -J ' ■ o 


Copy rig hied material 

The Anglo-German Concertina 

The Heathery Breeze 


As Played by Packie Russell 
Transcribed for CG Angto hy Dan Woixall 

ii' " Jiu[ju'^ '^ Lj^' ^^a'Lj'^ i ^LrLj 

■ 3 , 

n n . rii=F 


— « — 0mm 


r r "Tr r i* 



16 17 

If rrirriiif^,^ 



Copy rig hied material 


The Dawn 


As Pla\ cd by Padd\ Murphy 
Transcribed lor CG /\nglo by Dan Worrall 

— r» — — — 

— • 

^ J 

— »- 

d • * ^ 











Copy rig hied material 

The Anglo-German Concertina 


South Africa 
Boer Schouische 

As Played hy Hans Bodcnslcin 
Transcribed for CG Anglo hy Dan Worrall 




— 1 

Ti • ill 

•^"T — r 

W 1 

-»- ■ 



»- - 





»-= — 


16 17 









«-i 1» 1 





» — 







Copy rig hied material 


Noodshulp Polka 

South A&ka 
Bora- Polka 

As Played by Cliris Chomse 
TFanscribed for CG Anglo by Dan Wonall 

1 2 

ft- 'ft 



1* (* 



• • 







F fitj 

— I 

If'tJ [J '1 

^ ] 

I* "T 

20 21 

22 2 

* • 

• • 




■ J 


» 1 


— m 






\ ^ 



p — 







^ — 


" 1 c 

• ■ » 



p "1 

rr f" 




' f" r r 

» ^ 


» • » 

r » • » 

■ • 


Copy rig hied material 

The Anglo-German Concertina 

Soutpansberg Settees 

South AJhca 
Boer Sdtottische 

As Played by Faan Harris 
Transdibed for CG Anglo by Dan Woirall 

14 15 






— « 


* — H 1 B 

It ^ It M 





25 2S 27 28 29 

30 31 32 



Copy rig hied material 


Wals van Tant Sannie 

South Alrica 
Boer Waltz 

As played by I'aan 1 lams 
Traascribed f<a CO Anglo by Dan Wonall 

^ ^ i 

f: 1?: 
# • • • 

f f f 

F F ^ 



11 12 


f — 




* — 1* — r i 


* — 1* — i* — 1*"^ — ""i — ■ 



p — 


' F 1 1 

■ ' 


• f ■ 

rr 1 


^ ^ 

23 24 

ir rFF 




— 1 7 

> • 


r 1 


i — ' 


27 23 29 30 31 32 


• — 




^ 1 


Copy rig hied material 

The Anglo-German Concertina 


South Africa 
Sotho s(mg (repeated 

As Played by Jonas Mate and Kleinbooi Motaung, 1930 
Transcribed for CG Anglo by Dan Worrall 




■ ^ '1 




U Tugela 

South Afiica 

Zulu waUdag scmg (repeated liff) 

As Played by John Bombata 
Transcribed by Dan Worrall 

1 2 
















Copy rig hied material 


The Mudgee Schottische 


As Played bj' Fred Holland 
Transcribed for CG Aoglo by Dan WcHiaU 

0 — » 


J. V i- d. J. 


- -. 1 - ^ 


■ « 



^ : 



r 1 








— « 


' m- . 



' — J 

1 ^ 






— 1 * 


m — 



f» — d 


Copy rig hied material 

The Anglo-German Concertina 


Australia As playtxi bj Clan O'Neal 

Varsoviana (daiioe) Transcribed for CO Anglo by Dan Worrall 


Copy rig hied material 


Lancers Tune 


1 une lor Lancers (Quadrille) 

As Played by 1 Aiolcy Chapman 
Transcnbed for CU Aiiglo bv Dan Wonall 

1 2 3 4 5 




r . 1 . . » 1 ■ ^ 




• — 1 — 


» — L 

\ ' |> r 1 

m — ^ 

6 7 8 9 10 11 


^5 5? 





» — 





» — 



» 1— 



12 13 14 15 16 


_ 1 

• — ■ 


r — 




» . 



Copy righted malBd^l 

The Anglo-German Concertina 

Old Dan Tucker 

Minstrel Tune 

As Played by Doolcy Chapman 
'nanscdbed for CO Anglo by Dan Wonall 














-- 1 
— » — 


— 1 — 












f f m 


> m 





p — 

» — Le — 



» — 

• — 1 




Copy rig hied material 


Manchester Galop 

Galop (dance) 

As Played by Con Klippel 
Tiansciibed &r CG Anglo hy Dan WcHiall 

3 4 

— 1 ^ » ^ » . 0 - ' M- M M -. m-. 1 

■f^^ — F — F — r-r-^^ ^ — *^ — ^ I a - * r — *• -I — ^ — ^ 





r-p_rf-p_ if f"' r* !■ I r 'rr.«p-pr> i ^ -^ ^-p*- T i r'*-rr>- i 





Copy rig hied material 

The Anglo-German Concertina 

Princess Polka 

Australia As Played by Jim Harrison 

Polka Transcdbed for CG Anglo 1^ Dan Wotrall 



Comic Irish stage song (odginally, Killaloc) 

1 2 

As Played by Jim Harrison 
Tramcribed for CG Anglo by Dan Wonall 




— * 

' * 0 m 



r p 





tr 1 r 

i r: 1 

p r 


— — L-+- 




-m — r— 




^1 1 r — 


Copy rig hied material 


Kelvin Grove 

Australia As Played by Charlie Ordish 

Polka Transcribed for CG Anglo by Dan Wbrrall 

1 2 345 6 78 


Copy rig hied material 

The Anglo-German Concertina 


Copy rig hied material 

Index to Volumes 1 and 2 

Note: page numbers for volume 2 are underlined 
Titles of tunes for which music is included are italicized 

accordion, 4. 9, 36 

invention, 4, 1 
aeolina, 4 

Angola, 62-63 

arrival of concertina, 

Cape Verde Islands. 41 , 64 

Congo, 61 

cultural groups, 41-42 
Gabon, 63-64 
Ghana, 64-65.71 

highlife music, 64-65. 71 

palm wine music, 64-65 
Kenya, 67-68 
Madagascar, 68-69. 71 
Malawi, 66 
Nigeria, 62-63 
racial terminology, 42 
South Africa 

Boers, see South Africa Boers 

Cape Coloured, 41. 43-47 

concertina transport, 54-55 

gumboot dancing, 57-58. 70 

Khoi. 41. 48-50 

maskanda, 58. 70 

mbaqanga, 52 

mining and miners, 52-53 

minstrels, 46-47 

Salvation Army, 46 

Sotho, 41.56-57.61.70 
squashbox, 59-61. 70 

style and technique, 60-62 

Xhosa, 41.50-51 

Zulu, 41.52-56.58. 60-62 

Tanzania, 66 

Zambia, 67 

Algar, Chris. 26. 42. 176 

Allen, Walter, 76. 132-133 

along-the-row technique, 247-250, 233-234 

Anglo, origin of term, 36-40 

Anglo-Chromatic concertinas, 1, 38 

Anglo-German concertinas 

acceptance and popularity, 34-36 

defined, 1 

invention and development, 19-25 

production and marketing, 26-38 

photo, 3 

naming, 36-40 

decline, 154-156 
Arnold, Alfred, 11 
Atlas, Allan, 2. 220 
Austin, Jabez, 19 

Aborigines, 1 03- 1 05 

arrival and marketing of concertina, 77-82 

bushrangers, 99-103 

concertina builders, 25^ 79-81. 142 

decline, 125-127 

English concertinas, S2 

folk revival, 127-130 

history, 75-76 

holidays and excursions, 120-123 

mining and miners, 94-99 

military use, 1 23- 1 25 

minstrels, 100. 107-109 

modem day players, 140-141 

music halls, 109-111 

organizations, 1 30, 141 

petty crimes, 1 17-1 18 

Salvation Army, 1 18-120 

settlers' use in the bush, 84-94 

social dancing(ballroom), 

rural 87-94. 97-98. 102 
urban, 1 I 1-1 14 

South Sea Islanders, 105-106 

street musicians, 115-117 

styles and techniques, 130-140 

tutors, 142 

World War 1, 124 
Bacca Pipes, tune, 149-150. 232. 238 
Bandoneon, 2. 3. 13 
Bambata, John, 6 1 , 256 
Barkman, Eugene, 238 
Bellamy, Peter, 112 
Besser, Jim, 219 
Bester, Piet, 23.24 

The Anglo-German Concertina 

Bingham, Terry, 259 

Blakeney-Edwards, Andrew, 152 

Blaze Away, tune, UX IM, 236. 242 

Blind Girl, The, painting, 16 

Boats!, poem, 296 

Bobbing Around, tune, 125 

Bodenstein, Hans, 244, 20. 32. 23/i. 252 

boerekonsertina, 29, 3 1 . 236 

Boers, see South African Boers 

Bolton, Bob, I4Q 

Booth, Ballington, 208-209 

Booth, Eva, 92-94, 27, 152, 209-210 

Booth, Herbert, 88-92. 22 

Booth, William, 88,91,97 

Bornman, Regardo (Kerrie), 21. 26. 31 

Bray, John, 193-194 

Bridger, Tom, 159-161 

Brits, Koot,42, 26,28,3(L32 

Buschmann, Charles, 4 

busking, see street musicians 

Cameron and Ferguson, Glasgow, 197-199 

Campbell and Company, Glasgow, 17-18 

Canada, see North America 

Cape Town, Szfi 

Carey, Tom, 257. 258. 261 

Carroll, Wally, 42, 221-222. 224 

Carlsfeld concertinas, 2, 13 

Carolyn, Mary Ann, 236, 245-246 

Case, George, 2, 22 

Chambers, Stephen, 176-177 

Chapman, Albert (Dooley), 242, 76. 135-136. 141. 232. 
259. 260 

Chidley, Rock, 2, 21-22, 26, 126 

Chemnitzer concertinas, 2, 13, 14 

Chomse, Chris. 244. 21. 32-33. 233. 253 

Clapp, Malcolm, 140. 142 

Clegg, Johnny, 56. 70 

Cockneys, 64-71 

Coen, Charlie, 212 

Colley, Susan, 76. 133-1.34 

Collins, Tim, 252 

Commane, Gertie, 257, 261 

Concertina bands, 97-104 

Concertina builders, 41-42, 174-176, 79-81 

Concertina Library, 41, 41 

concertina transport, 54-55 

Connor, John, 41 

Constable Casey, M.C, comic poem, 228 

Cowan, John, 22Q 
Crabb concertinas, 41^ 174 
Crabb, Geoff, 41,124 
Crabb, Harry, 1, 174 
Crabb, John, 20-21 

Crehan, Margaret (Baby), 222, 242-244. 261. 232. 233. 244 
Crehan, Martin (Junior), 222, 239, 242, 261 
Crehan, Tony, 239 

Crooked Road to Dublin, The, tune, 248, 2.34. 247 
Cross Morris, tune, 121, 163, 232. 243 
Cross-row technique, 167, 252 

also see style and technique 
Crotty, Elizabeth, 187, 222, 250-252, 261, 234. 249 
Custy, Cathy, 252 
Daly, Jackie, 223 
Daly's Threshing, poem, 227 
dance, see social dancing 
Dawn. The, tune, 253-254, 235. 251 
Day, Alan, 152,128 
de Bruin, Regardt, 26.27.28 
decline in concertina use 

Australia, 125-127 

England, 1.54-1.56 

Ireland, 2 37-239 

nautical, 315-318 

New Zealand, 168-172 

North America, 215-217 

South Africa, 23-24 
de Hugard, Dave, 140 
de Jager, Kalie, 24 
de Lange, Silver, 21 
Demian, Cyrill, 4 
Dickens, Charles, 51-52 
Dickinson, Steve, 41, 174 
Dickinson concertinas, 41, 174 
Digby, Roger, 170-171, 125 
Dinan, Bridget, 2Q1 

Dipper, Colin, Rosalie and John, 175-176. 304 

Dipper concertinas, 41, 175-176 

Dooley, Margaret, iE2. 214 

Double Lead Through, tune, 157-158, 236. 239 

Doyle, Michael, 250, 234. 248 

Droney, Chris, 233, 249-250. 261, 234-235 

Duet concertinas, 2. 3, 37 

Duke, Will, 122 

Edgley, Frank, 42. 260, 262 

Edwards, Alf, 322, 328 

Edwards, Roger, 171 

Eigse Mrs. Crotty, 255-256, 262 

Elliott, David, US 
Ellis, Peter, 129. 140. 142 

agricultural decline, 47-48, 105-107, 109 

bletherhead bands, 126-129 

Christmas and New Year's playing, 129-131 

churches, concertina playing in, 112-113 

cities, absence of ritual activities, 131-132 

class structure and social tension, 29-30, 1 42- 1 45 

Cockneys, 64-71 

comic bands, 1 28 

decline of concertina, 154-156 

holidays and excursions, 7 1 -73 

hooden horse, 1 31 

migration, 47-48 
minstrelsy, 73-86 

morris and sword dancing, concertinas in, 1 14-126, 

mumming, concertina in, I 26- 1 29 
music halls, 86-89 
organizations, concertina, 178-179 
population and social trends, 47-48 
recordings, concertina, 1 78 
revival of concertina, 167-171. 176 
rural poverty. 105-107. 109 
Salvation Army, 87-103. 152 

concertina bands, 97-103 

origins, 87-88 

tutors, 8L 101-103 
social dancing, 132-141 

ballroom dance, 133. 134-136. 138-139. lAl 

country dance, 134, 136-138. 141 

decline, 1 35 

revival, 135 

step dance, 132, 134, 140-141 
street musicians 16, 49-72 

style and techniques of players, 166-167. 171-174 

villages, concertina playing in, 108-1 12 

World War I, concertina in, 149-154 
Engle, Tony, 169 
English concertinas 

defined, 2 

photo, 3 

naming, 36-40 
English country music, 169-171 
Evans, Richard, 42, 140. 142 
Eydmann, Stuart, 197 
Fahey, Warren, 140. 142 
Favourite Set of Country Dances, tunes, 1 37 
folk music revival, see revival 


Fox, Edel, 25a 

Frank, Stuart, 322, 324, 326 

Garry Owen, tune, 1 37 

Gaskins, Robert, 179, 220 

German concertinas 

acceptance and popularity, 29-30, 34-36, 187-188, 

defined, 1 

earliest advertisement, 12 
export and production, 1 5- 1 7, 19 
invention and development 4-18 
keyboard, 1, 12 
photo, 3, 14 
price, 16-17 

production and marketing, 26-38, 195-202 

tutors, 2J_L 1.3-15 
German system concertinas, 1 
Geuns, Harry, 42 
Ghent, Chris, 41. 142. 173 
Gibbons, Bill, 165-166 
Glossup, Lancastershire, morris, 124 
God Save the Qtieen, song, 1 5 1 
Good Old Concertina, The, poem, 87 
Green, Allan, 42,32 
Jeffries, Charles, 1, 24 
Jeffries concertinas 24, 29, 23, 151 
Jones, George 19-20. 22 
Haamse, Chrisjan, 21^22 
Heu-ley, Henry, 31-32 

Harris, Faan, 20-21. 24. 33 -35. 235. 254. 255 
Harrison, Jim, 76. 138-139. 232. 262 
Harrison, Robin, 219 
Haugh, Gerald, 257, 258, 261 
Hayes, Kitty, 233, 250, 255-257, 261 
Heathery Breeze, The, tune, 251. 234. 250 
Henson, Matthew, 288-289, ISS 
Herrington, Harold, 42, 222. 224 
Hill, Noel, 255, 259, 262, 221-222. 2.35 
Holland, Eric, 163-164 
Holland, Fred, 76. 131-132. 257 
Horniman Museum. London, 179 
Hoselbarth, Johann Gottlieb, 7, 9-10 
Hugill, Stan, 307, 322 
humor and the concertina, 145-149 

/ Have a Bonnet Trimmed With Bhie, tune, 245, 232. 245 

International Concertina Association, 1 78 

Inuit and Aleut use, 280-293 

Invincible Hornpipe, The, tune, 24 



The Anglo-German Concertina 

Anglicization, 190-191 

arrival of English concertina, 191-202 

arrival of German, Anglo-German concertinas, 1 87- 
188, 195-202 

civil disobedience, 221-223 

contests, concertina, 201 

County Clare and concertinas, 187-188, 240-241 

dance, see social dance 

Dance Hall Act, 239, 241 

decline of concertina, 237-239 

diaspora, concertina use in, 224-229 

distribution of concertinas, 231-235 

everyday life, concertina in, 230-231 

evictions and land reform, 220-221 

Gaelic League and concertina, 215-217 

Great Famine, 1 90 

Irish language decline, 189-191 

marketing, German concertina, 199-202 

minstrels, 2(M» 253 

music halls, 194-195 

pub sessions, 241, 253 

republic, establishment of, 223-224 

revival, concertina use, 255-260 

Salvation Army, 206 

social dance, 207-215 

ballroom, 207-210, 2AU 
lA^-lAA, 245^246 
ceili dance, 212-213. 24J^ 242 
country dance, 208-209 
decline, 238-239 
house dance, see ballroom dance 
step dance, 208 
street musicians, 202-204 
styles and techniques, 238-239. 241-254 
survival of concertina, 240-241 
Ulster, concertina use, 224 
women and concertina, 235-236 
workhouses, concertina in, 205 
Is the Concertina a Noisy Instrument? , poem, 92 
James, A.P. & Co., 42 
Johnson, Dana, 42i 222 
Johnson, David, 140.142 
Jowaises, Greg, 222. 224 
Kelly, John, 233, 244, 248-252. 262. 234. 247 
Kelvin Grove, tune, 140. 263 
Killaloo, comic song, 132.262 
Kilroy, Fred, 121. Wi-UA, 161-162, 173. 236. 242 

Kimber, William, Jr., 115, 117-120, 157-158, 178, 

232^233.236. 238-239 

Kimber, William, Sr., 115 

Kirkpatrick, John, 168. HI. 178, 322-324, 326 

Klippel, Con, 76. 1.37-138. 2.32. 261 

Kruskal, Jody, 111. 219-220 

Labuschagne, Danie, 42, 24. 29. 37 

Lachenal concertinas, 3. 23. 27-29, 37, 39 

Lachenal, Louis, 23 

Lachenal, Marie, 23 

Lancers Time, tune, 1 36. 259 

Lange, Friedrich Anton, 7 

Large, Bill, 131-132 

Large, Fred, 76. 131 

Levy, Bertram, 219-220 

Lillis, Solus, 246, 252.261 

London Exposition of 1 85 1 , 13, 22, 36 

Loveless, Kenneth, 313 

Lyons, Jim, 76, 1 3 1 

Maccann duet concertina, 3. 37, 194, 22. 220 

Maccann, John Hill, 37, 134 

Maguire, Tom, 60. 228-229 

Klammolikoane, song. 61 . 256 

Manchester Galop, The, tune, 137-138. 232. 261 

Manley morris team, 1 23, 165 

Maori, 160-164. 173 

Marcus Music, 42 

maritime concertina use, see nautical concertina use 
Marshall, Ellis, 12L 162-163. 232. 243 
Mayhew, Henry, 16, 52, 135 
Mate, Jonas, 61^256 
Mattheus, Neels, 24. 26, 2S 
McCabe, Libby, 211 

McCarthy, Tommy, ISI, 23L 233-234, 245, 250. 
255-256, 261 

McCarthy, Jacqueline. 233. 259. 313 

McMahon, Tommy, 233, 258, 26L 245 

McNamara, Mary, 233, 258-259 

Meredith, John, 127-130. 136 

Merris, Randall, 26.34 

Merrily Danced the Quaker's Wife, tune, 137 
Minasi, Carlo, 2, U, 13, 15, 111 
Mine Own, poem, 215 

mining and miners, 52-53 , 94-99. 155-157. 192-193 
minstrel shows and minstrelsy 

Australia, 100. 107-109 

England, 73-83 

Ireland, 2(14, 253 

nautical, 279, 286 

New Zealand, 151-154 

North America, 193-194 


Copyrighted material 

South Africa, 5-6. 46-47 
Minstrel Boy, The, comic poem, 147 
Mormon concertina playing, 1 13. IRQ-191. 212 
morris dancing, concertinas in, 1 14-126, 168-170 
Morse, Richard, 42, 222. 224 
Mount Phoebus Hunt, Tlie, tune. 250. 234. 248 
Mudgee Schottische, tune. 131. 257 

Mullaly, William J., iSS. 227, 234. 247-248. 261. 234. 246 

Murphey. Michael. 212 

Murphy. Doddy. 76. 132-133 

Murphy. Paddy. 21S, 234, 252-254. 261. 235.251 

Murray. Sonny. 257. 261 

Music in Our Street, poem, 49-50 

music halls 

Australia, 109-111 

England, 19,86^228 

Ireland, 194-195.216-217, 228 

North America, 194-196 
nautical concertina use 

analysis of sightings, 308-315 

Arctic exploration, 288-289, 293-294 

concertinas with nautical provenance, 313 

Confederate Navy, 277-278 

dancing on board ship, 277, 278, 285, 287, 290, 293, 

dance music, 279, 311, 327-328 
decline of concertina use, 315-318 

hymns, 273, 280 
Inuit and Aleut use, 280-293 
literature with concertinas, 3 1 8-320 
minstrels, 279, 286 

musical instruments, frequency of use, 314-315, 316 

myths and perceptions on concertina use, 321-326 

Royal Navy. 294-301 

shanghaiing, 284-285 

shantys, 274, 311 

shipwrecks, 287, 290-291, 304 

smuggling, 297-298 

song accompaniment, 278, 291, 292, 293, 299, 311 

table of sightings, 271-272 

United States Navy, 302-303 

whaling, 280-283 
New Angel, The, comic poem, 184 
New Zealand 

arrival of concertina, 149-150 

decline, 168-172 

English concertina. 155 

folk revival, 172-173 

history, 147-149 

Maori, 160-164. 173 


military use, 157-158 

mining and miners, 155-157 

minstrels, 1 5 1 - 1 54 

musical instruments, 170-172 

Opunake Christy Minstrel Troupe, 153-154 

Salvation Army, 158-160 

social dance (ballroom), 162-168. 168-170 
Nickolds, Crabb and Son, 20-21, 36 
Nickolds, John, 20-21 
Noodshulp Polka, tune, 32-33. 233. 253 
Norman, A.C. & Co., 42 
North America 

African-American use, 187-188. 200-202 

arrival of concertina, 177-181 

Civil War, 187-188 

concertina builders, 222 

decline, 215-217 

English concertina, 182 

Hollywood, 217-218 

humor, 196-198 

immigrant use, 1 89-191 . 202-205 

English, 205 

Germans, 204 

Irish, 202-203 

Italians, 205 
mining and miners, 192-193 
minstrels, 193-194 
Mormon use, 189-191. 212 
music hall and vaudeville, 194-196 
native American use 

Blackfeet, 208 

Innuit and Aleut, 268-271. 206-207 

Metis. 207-208 

organizations. 221-222 

revival, 219-221 

Salvation Army, 208-214 

social classes and use, 182-183 

social dance, 186-187 

traditional music, 222^221 

urban use, 184-186 

wild west use, 191-192 

O'B 's Concertina, poem, 215 

Octave technique, 166-167, 242-247, 32-33. 130-140. 

O'Donoghue, Mickey, 223, 225, 247 
O'Dwyer, Sean, 234, 243 

OhAllmhurain, Gearoid, 20L 114, 215. 226. 224. 235. 

240. 242. 253-254. 259, 261. 219 
O'Neal. Clem. 76. 134-135. 258 


The Anglo-German Concertina 

O'Neill, Francis, 188. mu 217-219, 251 

ORaghallaigh, Michael, 251 

O'Sullivan, Bernard, 234. 257, 261. 2:^2. 245 

O'Sullivan, Dympna, 259 

Old Dan Tucker, hine. 245. 1 36. 232. 260 

Old Hundredth Psalm, song, 1 13 

Oldham Lancashire morris, 121-122 

Ordish, Charlie, 7_6. 139-140. 263 

organizations, concertina 

Australia, 130. 141 

England, 178-179 

North America, 221-222 

South Africa, 22 
Orth, Alec, 132 
Owen, Ruth Bryan, 198-199 
Peters, Brian, 17L 173 
physharmonica, 4, 36 
Plantation Sand Dance, minstrel tune, 78 
Potgieter, Wessel, 42 
Princess Polka, tune, 139. 232. 262 
Read, Paul, 212 

Reichel, Christian Friedrich, T^S 
Regondi, Giulio, 191-193 
revival, folk and concertina 

Australia, 127-130 

England. 167-171, 176 

Ireland, 240-241.252-257 

North America, 219-221 

South Africa, 23-25 
Rice, Les, 164 

Roamin' in the Gloamin', song, 159, 232. 241 
Roberts, John, 17L 328, 219-220 
Royton, Lancashire morris, 1 21 -1 22 
Russell, Packie, 224. 251. 262, 234. 250 
Ryan, Stack, 257 

Safe in the Arms of Jesus, tune, 63 
Sailor Town, poem, 321 

sailors and concertinas, see nautical concertina use 
Salley, George, 21£ 
Salvation Army 

Australia, 118-120 

England, 87-103. 152 

Ireland, 206 

New Zealand, 158-160 

North America, 208-214 

South Africa, 46 
Savage, Walter, 166 
Saxony, 4-5 

Scan Tester's Schottische, tune, 158-159, 240 

Scates, Joseph, \% 191-194, 196 
Schottische, tune ca. 1837, 10 
Schultz, Wilhelm, 22 
Schwartz, Paul, 220 
Scotland, see note 1^ p. 179 
Scurfield, Harry, 173. 59-61 
Senekal, Tom, 26,28 
Settees, tune, 32, 233, 252 
Sharp, Cecil. 1 14, 118-1 19, 157 
sheng, 4 

Sibabule, Ranoke, 55-56 
Simpson, Ian, 42, 142 
social dance, 

rural 87-94. 97-98. 102 
urban, 111-114 

ballroom dance, 133, 134-136, 138-139. 141 
country dance, 134. 1 36-1 38, 141 
decline, 135 
revival, 1 35 

step dance, 132, 134, 140-141 

ballroom, 207-211. 241. 243-244. 245-246 

ceili dance, 212-213, 241 , 247 

country dance, 208-209 

decline. 238-239 

house dance, see ballroom dance 

step dance, 208 
nautical, 277, 278, 285, 287, 290, 293, 297 
New Zealand, 162-168. 168-170 
North America, 186-187 
South African Boer, 10-12. 18-19 
revival, 236 
Solomon, Boy, 21=22 
Songs of the Watering Places, poem, Ml 
Sotho. 41.56-57.61.70 
South Africa 

Boers, see South African Boers 
Cape Coloured, 41. 43-47 
concertina transport, 54-55 
gumboot dancing, 57-58. 70 
Khoi. 41. 48-50 
maskanda, 58. 70 
mbaqanga, 5£ 
mining and miners, 52-53 
minstrels, 46-47 
Salvation Army, 46 

Sotho, 41. 56-57. 61. 70 

squashbox, 59-61 . 70 

style and technique, 60-62 

Xhosa, 41.50-51 

Zulu, 41. 52-56. 58. 60-62 
South African Boers 

Boer War, 4. 13-16. 54, 124 

boerekonsertina, 29 

boeremusiek, 18 

concertina builders, 29-.30, 37 

dance bands, 173. 20-22 

decline in concertina use, 23-24 

early concertina use, 6^2 

fascination with concertina, 12-13 

history, 2zA 

minstrels, 5^6 

modern players, 26 

organizations for concertina, 22 

revival, 23-25 

social dancing, 10-12 

ballroom dances, 18-19 

style and technique, 173. 24, 31 -.34 

youth bands, 26-27 
Soiitpansberg Settees, tune, 33-34, 235, 254 
squashbox, 59-61 
Stanley concertinas, 25 
Stanley, John, 25, 76 
Stradling, Rod, \m 
street musicians 

Australia, 1 15-1 17 

England, 16, 49-72 

Ireland, 202-204 

North America, 184-185 
styles and techniques, 

Australia, 130-140 

England, 166-167. 171-174 

South Africa 

Boer, 173. 24. 31-34 
squashbox, 60-62 
summary and comparative, 229-236 
Sullivan, Chris, I4Q 
Suttner, Jiirgen, 42 

Sweet Biddy Daly, tune, 242-243, 232. 244 
symphonium, 4 

techniques, see styles and techniques 
Tedrow, Bob, 42, 222. 224 
Tester, Scan, 156-161. 169, IIS. 232. 240-2 
Theron, Piet, 26, 28 


Thomas, Jeff, 42. 222 
Tory Island Reel, tune, 248. 234. 246. 
Townley, John, 328, 219 
Tubridy, Michael 224, 226 
Turner, Andy, 171, 173 
Uhlig, Carl 6-7.9. 12 
photo, 5 

United States of America, see North America 

U Tiigela, song, 6 1 , 256 

Vallely, Niall, 252 

van Rijnsburg, Nico, 24, 26 

van de Vyver, Zak, 26 

van Wyk, Willie, 42. 31 

van Zyl, Stephaan, 21 . 24. 31 , 37 

Varsoviana, tune, 258 

Viljoen, Hannes, 23. 30 

Wait Till the Clouds Roll By, song, 222. 

Waiting on the Robert E. Lee, song, 154-155, 34 

Wakker, Wim, 42, 222 

Wales, see note 1, 172 

Walker, Caleb, 123, IMJJiS 

Wals van Tant Sannie, tune, 33-35, 235. 255 

Waltz, tune ca. 1846, 11 

Wayne, Neil, 2. 16S, 176, 112 

Weltner, Charles L., 129 

West, Alfred Charles, 152-161 

Wheatstone, Sir Charles, 2, 4 

Wheatstone and Company, 2, 25, 26-27. 176 

Wheatstone concertinas, 25,26zi32 

Williams. .John. 234.219 

Willie Clancy Summer School, 255, 25L 262 

Willis, Rob, 140 

Wind that Shakes the Barley, The, tune, 245, 251-252. 
234. 242 

With Sword and Shield, tune, 102 

Wooing Under Distress, poem, 51 

Worrall, Dan, 178, 224 

Wunsch, Johann David, 6-7, 2 

You Told Me When, tune, 137 

Xhosa, 41.50-51 

Zimmerman, Carl Friedrich, 2, 12-14. 172-180. 204 
Zulu, 41.52-56.58. 60-62 


The Anglo-German Concertina 


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